- The RAND Corporation and New York University published a study in Educational Researcher last week that found students with low test scores who enroll in virtual charter schools tend to fall even further behind.
- The Hechinger Report writes the study, which tracked student performance in Ohio, also found high-performing students do worse in virtual schools, even if their achievement levels are better than that of their peers.
- Researchers found low-performers tend to be the ones drawn to virtual charter schools — evidence they say should prompt traditional district administrators to find out why and then develop new programs that will meet their students’ needs and preferences in-house.
While U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has spoken out in favor of virtual schools as an opportunity to expand school choice, the sector has faced significant criticism in recent years. Besides studies showing poor performance among virtual charter school students, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools put out a call to action last summer to hold these schools accountable for student performance.
Not all virtual charter schools, however, are bad. New Hampshire’s program gets consistently positive results by offering students a self-paced, competency-based alternative to their home schools. Most students who attend do so part-time, taking classes from their original schools, too. And importantly, the charter is only paid if students meet competencies, not simply if they enroll in the program.