Virtual School Meanderings

June 2, 2010

Top 7 Cyber Charter School Readings

Back in April I posted an entry entitled Dissertation Research Ideas?.  In the comments to that entry I promised one doctoral student that I would devote an issue of the Top # series to cyber charter school readings for the folks out there involved in that community (along with the graduate students out there doing research with cyber charter schools.  Well, I missed the May edition (altogether I believe – and April too for that matter), so I wanted to use this June edition to fulfill that promise.

1. (a) Bracey, G. W. (2004). Knowledge universe and virtual schools: Educational breakthrough or digital raid on the public treasury? Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University. Retrieved from

1. (b) Ohanian, S. (2004). The K12 virtual primary school history curriculum: A participant’s-eye view. Tempe, AZ: Education Policy Studies Laboratory, Arizona State University. Retrieved from

These two reports are basically two of the only independent evaluations conducted of K12, Inc. – both fairly unfavaourable.

2. (a) Zimmer, R. et al. (2009) Charter schools in eight states effects on achievement, attainment, integration, and competition. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved from

2. (b) Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. (2009). E-schools show superior results: Analysis of state value-added data confirms  e-schools students’ progress. Columbus, OH: Author. Retrieved from

2. (c) Kids Ohio. (2009). New analysis: Ohio’s 8 large urban districts and charter schools rank higher on educational progress than on absolute test scores. Columbus, OH: Author. Retrieved from

2. (d) Ballou, D., Teasley, B., &  Zeidner, T. (2006). Charter schools in Idaho. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University. Retrieved from

2. (e) National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. (2009). Charter school achievement: What we know. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

These are a bunch of reports that indicate that cyber charter schools do as well or worst than their brick-and-mortar counterparts or the ones that show that cyber charter schools do better than their traditional counterparts where the studies are methodologically flawed (and I’ve written about these problems in the past, see Report: Ohio E-Schools Show Superior Results, Data: Academic And Cost Effectiveness, CREDO National Charter School Study, Selective Conclusions About Charters, Cyber Charter School Research and Idaho Charter Schools: 10-Year Report Card).

3. Special Issue of Tech Trends focused on cyber charter schools:

See TechTrends Special Issue: Charter Schools Go Cyber for a description of this special issue.

4. Weiner, C. (2003). Key ingredients to online learning: Adolescent students study in cyberspace. International Journal on E-Learning: Corporate, Government, Healthcare & Higher Education, 2(3), 44-50.

One of the few published research studies concerning cyber charter schools.

5. Klein, C. (2006). Virtual charter schools and home schooling. Youngstown, NY: Cambria Press.

The only book that I know of that is solely focused on cyber charter schools.

6. (a) Rapp, K. E., Eckes, S. E., & Plurker, J. A. (2006). Cyber charter schools in Indiana: Policy implications of the current statutory language. Education Policy Brief, 4(3). Retrieved from

6. (b) Huerta, L. A. and M. F. González (2004). Cyber and home school charter schools: How states are defining new forms of public schooling. Tempe, AZ, Education Policy Research Unit, Arizona State University. Retrieved from

6. (c) Thomas, W. R. (2002). Virtual learning and charter schools: Issues and potential impact. Atlanta, GA: Southern Regional Education Board. Retrieved from

A series of specific policy reports related to cyber charter schools.

7. Baker, J. D., et al. (2005). K12, Inc. and the Colorado Virtual Academy: A virtual charter school. In Z. L. Berge and T. Clark. (Eds.) Virtual schools: Planning for success (133-142).  New York: Teachers College Press.

A descriptive chapter about the relationship between a cyber charter school vendor (i.e., K12, Inc.) and a cyber charter school (i.e., Colorado Virtual Academy).

So while I have seven counted, the list is more like twenty one when you count all of the individual items up.

While there are probably other ones that are out there, I’m in Orlando at the moment and don’t have my library in front of me.  So I’m sure I have missed some.  If you know of any that you would recommend to a doctoral student (i.e., someone looking to conduct systematic, empirical research), please leave them in the comment areas.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this!! I work for an online school and am also a doctoral student at UVA researching virtual schools.

    Comment by Lisa H Ross — June 2, 2010 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  2. Lisa, not a problem… I only wish I could have gotten it up a few months ago (as I have missed the “Top #” entries for the past couple of months).

    BTW, what about virtual schools are you researching?

    Comment by mkbnl — June 2, 2010 @ 7:50 pm | Reply

  3. (Micheal, I did not mean to write so much, but here it is. )

    I want to study public high schools in districts which offer full-time or supplemental online learning courses. Specifically, I am interested in the brick-and-mortar school leaders’ (principals and counselors) perceptions of the need for support services for online students. I am thinking of creating an new survey instrument based on INACOL Standards for Quality Online Programs and the Promising Practices report on Management and Operations of Online Programs relative to student support. The question is “Does the online learning options in your district ensure students have the orientation, technical supprt and academic counseling that they need to be successful?”. I am also interested in determing the principals and counselor’s interest in professional development in these aspects of online learning so that as more students enroll in online learnig, support services are understood and available. I have a backgoround in school counseling and school administration, and I think both positions are key to student success in virtual schooling. What do you think?

    Comment by Lisa H Ross — June 3, 2010 @ 8:58 am | Reply

  4. Well, a few things come to mind… The first is that the iNACOL standards and the Promising Practices series are not based on empirical or systematic research, so for a dissertation I think they would be a poor starting point for a doctoral dissertation. If you are interested in how brick-and-mortar school support supplemental online students, I would focus on the literature as your starting point (Roblyer’s work on the ESPRI, Davis’s work with TEGIVS, etc.).

    I also think that a simply survey – regardless of the sample size – would be a bit weak in terms of a methodology for a doctoral dissertation. One strategy may be to start with a survey to figure out what folks are doing, than focus a case study on one or more of the schools – based on your analysis of the survey data – that provide descriptive or instructive instances (i.e., not necessarily the best ones or the ones doing the most, but the ones that have the most to teach others).

    While I may be in the minority in this opinion (as I know that many see the dissertation as simply the final step in getting that professional credential that is sought), but I believe that for most the doctoral dissertation will be the most comprehensive, detailed, and extensive piece of research they will ever do. Why waste that opportunity on something that won’t make a difference beyond help the student get that piece of paper. I’m not suggesting that the study you have proposed is a waste, but I would ask that you consider what value it might have for someone in Wisconsin or New Mexico or Ontario or New Zealand. If some virtual school administrator from some place other than Virginia were to come across your completed dissertation, how can you structure it now so that it will provide them with something useful, something valuable.

    The topic of how do local brick-and-mortar schools prepare and support their online students is a valuable one. The question you need to wrestle with, and the literature should help in that respect, is how do you design a study that will be more than just another step in your doctoral journey. I’ll try and write more about this in an entry devoted solely to it next week.

    Comment by mkbnl — June 3, 2010 @ 9:49 am | Reply

  5. Thank you so much for the feedback. I agree with you oompletely and want to do a valuable piece of research. I do want to include your suggestions and have thought about focus groups, interviews, case studies but not sure how to approach. Thank you again!!

    Comment by Lisa H Ross — June 3, 2010 @ 10:18 am | Reply

  6. […] K-12 online learning, dissertation So for the June “top #” entry, I made a post on the Top 7 Cyber Charter School Readings. One of the comments to that entry read: I want to study public high schools in districts which […]

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  9. […] they don’t open their product up to many outsiders.  Last June I wrote an entry entitled Top 7 Cyber Charter School Readings, which outlines some of what has been written about the cyber charter schools (most of which are […]

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