Virtual School Meanderings

October 27, 2015

Responses To CREDO’s Online Charter School Study 2015

As a follow-up to the entries on New National Study Details The Operations And Effects Of Online Charter Schools and CREDO – Online Charter School Study 2015, I have to say that I have found the immediate response kind of funny.

The first thing to remember is that CREDO has tended to publish pro-charter research, and that this particular study was funded by the Walton Foundation (who love all things school choice).

The second thing to remember is that researchers that have reviewed previous CREDO reports have had significant concerns with the research methodology that CREDO uses.  For example:

In most of their past research, CREDO has tended to find that charters are doing a good job using this questionable methodology.

Now in the current Online Charter School Study 2015 CREDO has found that there is little redeeming about student performance in online charter school.  So we all know what is going to happen – in fact, I’ve written about what was and is going to happen…

And of course, the predictable happened/is happening…

K12 Inc. Responds to Online Charter School Report / Analysis of Online Charter School Study by CREDO/Mathematica/CRPE

  • even though the study found that online charter schools enroll fewer disadvantaged students, but still claim that they do enroll more at-risk student (i.e., argue that the research is wrong)
  • raises same critiques about the methodology that organizations like the NEPC (linked above) have been raising for years
  • data is dated and the findings are different now, they have their own internal, non-reviewed, corporate reports to prove it

CREDO Study of Online Learning Gets an Incomplete

  • highlights the minor positive aspects of the report (even though the report is almost completely negative towards online charter schools)
  • raises same critiques about the methodology that organizations like the NEPC (linked above) have been raising for years
  • data is dated and the findings are different now,the for profit corporations (who have no vested interest in keeping the gravy train going) have their own internal, non-reviewed, corporate reports to prove it
  • co-opts the findings for a call for some of his own pet projects (i.e., things iNACOL wants that would open open the market to allow for more profiting and pillaging).

Response to CREDO at Stanford Report

Reaction to New Online Charter School Study

  • summarizes the findings,then complains about the fact that the study didn’t include their pet project (kind of like the journal reviewer that recommends rejection of your manuscript, and then outlines the study that they would have done if they were in your shoes)

Analyzing the CREDO Online Charter School Report: A Call for Improved Performance Metrics and Quality Assurance

  • summarizes the findings, then co-opts the results for a call for some of their own pet projects

Findings in Stanford Online School Study Have No Bearing on Blended Learning

  • summarizes the findings, then complains about the fact that the study didn’t include their pet project

National Alliance Responds to CREDO’s Virtual Charter Schools Report

  • ignore the evidence and argues that charter schools work, research from this same group (ignoring the flawed methodology that now even online charter advocates acknowledge) says so
  • we should close charter schools that don’t work (while at the same time fighting against any meaningful regulation or policy that would allow states to do this)
  • charter schools only serve a small number of students (but make big profits for the companies that do serve that small percentage)
  • finally, confound the issue by reminding us that the study didn’t include blended charter schools, and those are examples of online charter schools that do work

CER Responds to Online Charter School Report

  • even though the study found that online charter schools enroll fewer disadvantaged students, but still claim that they do enroll more at-risk student (i.e., argue that the research is wrong)
  • raises same critiques about the methodology that organizations like the NEPC (linked above) have been raising for years
  • changes the topic altogether (“Will someone please things about the children!”)

Shouldn’t surprise anyone…

CREDO – Online Charter School Study 2015

A couple of hours ago I posted New National Study Details The Operations And Effects Of Online Charter Schools.  Here are some more details on the report.

The actual report:

The press releases:

Early media:

More in an hour or two…


New National Study Details The Operations And Effects Of Online Charter Schools

So earlier today, this showed up in my inbox…

If you are still having problems viewing this message, please click here for additional help.

Mathematica Policy Research Logo

New & Noteworthy Banner


OCTOBER 27, 2015

Online Charter School Students Falling Behind Their Peers

New national study details the operations and effects of online charter schools





















































©2015 Mathematica Policy Research
P.O. Box 2393
Princeton, NJ
Phone: (609) 799-3535
Fax: (609) 799-0005

Email comments or questions

Mathematica® is a registered trademark of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Innovative new research suggests that students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools. The National Study of Online Charter Schools, released today, offers a rigorous analysis of the operations of online charter schools, their policy environments, and their impacts on student achievement. Conducted by three independent research institutions, the study is the most comprehensive examination of online charter schools to date, and is organized into separate, topical report volumes. In Volume I,Mathematica Policy Research describes the universe of online charter schools, the students they serve, and their operations. In Volume II, theCenter on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington describes the policy environments of online charter schools and provides recommendations to state policymakers. In Volume III, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University describes the achievement effects of online charter schools.


Volume I—Inside Online Charter Schools by Mathematica Policy Research

Media Contact—Jennifer de Vallance 202-484-4692 /

Mathematica’s report offers a snapshot of the 200 online charter schools operating across the country and the 200,000 elementary, middle, and high school students they serve. The report examines the instructional programs of online charter schools; methods used to engage students and parents, along with expectations of parental involvement; the teachers and principals of online charter schools; and the schools’ management and governance.

Mathematica’s analysis finds:

Student-driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learningin online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction.
Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day.
Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge.
Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents,perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56, and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction.

Brian Gill, a Mathematica senior fellow and lead author of the report, said, “Challenges in maintaining student engagement are inherent in online instruction, and they are exacerbated by high student-teacher ratios and minimal student-teacher contact time, which the data reveal are typical of online charter schools nationwide. These findings suggest reason for concern about whether the sector is likely to be effective in promoting student achievement.”

Additional findings from the Volume I report are available: In Focus Fact Sheet.

Volume II—The Policy Framework for Online Charter Schools by the Center on Reinventing Public Education

Media Contact—Debra Britt 206-221-3331

The Center on Reinventing Public Education conducted an extensive examination of how state policy shapes the online charter school landscape. Researchers found that online charter schools exist in a number of different policy environments due to variation in state charter law and administrative regulation.

Most of the existing regulation is reactive to controversy (restrictions on growth and autonomy), rather than proactive policies to guide the unique opportunities and challenges of online charters. The authors found several drawbacks to forcing online schools into the charter context, including:

Open admission requirements that prevent schools from screening for students who are most likely to be successful in an online school
Authorizing and accountability provisions that are not well suited to the unique challenges of regulating online schools
Funding mechanisms that preclude outcomes-based funding

CRPE director Robin Lake, who co-authored the study, said, “We need policies that address legitimate concerns without needlessly restricting growth.” The report recommends that policymakers consider moving online schools out of the charter context, or craft unique provisions specific to online charters.

Volume III—Online Charter School Study by CREDO at Stanford University

Media Contact—Meg Cotter Mazzola

The CREDO at Stanford University report presents the most comprehensive findings available to date about impacts of online charter enrollment on the academic progress of students. Although findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their peers at traditional public schools. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year. This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial and ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.

“While the overall findings of our analysis are somber, we do believe the information will serve as the foundation for constructive discussions on the role of online schools in the K–12 sector. We see an opportunity for the providers to do a better job of documenting the benefits they provide to their students and to connect with and learn from operators who are doing well,” said Dr. James Woodworth, senior quantitative research analyst for CREDO at Stanford University.

This mixed-methods analysis included data from 158 online schools across 17 states and the District of Columbia. The data set for online school students is restricted to those students attending public, full-time online charter schools.

The National Study of Online Charter Schools was funded by the Walton Family Foundation. “We support research on difficult questions like these because we want to know what is working for kids—and what is not. Innovation in education takes time, but we must test whether new ideas are working and make changes when we learn that ideas with potential are falling short,” said the director of research and evaluation for the Walton Family Foundation, Marc Holley. “We’re grateful that CRPE, Mathematica, and CREDO have studied these schools and are sharing their findings. Knowing the facts helps parents, educators, policymakers, and funders make smarter, more informed decisions that benefit children,” said Holley.

About Mathematica:
Mathematica Policy Research seeks to improve public well-being by conducting studies and assisting clients with program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and program performance/data analytics and management. Its clients include foundations, federal and state governments, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company is headquartered in Princeton, NJ, with offices in Ann Arbor, MI; Cambridge, MA; Chicago, IL; Oakland, CA; and Washington, DC.

About The Center on Reinventing Public Education:
The Center on Reinventing Public Education is a research and policy analysis center developing systemwide solutions for K-12 public education. CRPE is based in Seattle and affiliated with the University of Washington Bothell. CRPE’s work is funded entirely through philanthropy, federal grants, and contracts.

About CREDO at Stanford University:
CREDO at Stanford University was established to improve empirical evidence about education reform and student performance at the primary and secondary levels. CREDO at Stanford University supports education organizations and policymakers in using reliable research and program evaluation to assess the performance of education initiatives. CREDO’s valuable insight helps educators and policymakers strengthen their focus on the results from innovative programs, curricula, policies or accountability practices.

TwitterTwitter Facebook Facebook Delicious Delicious  RSS  RSS

June 23, 2015

Stephen Dyer: Why Is Charter Magnate Closing His “Best” Schools?

This is an interesting commentary… Note the references to e-schools, which in Ohio are the full-time cyber charter schools.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Ohio is a happy state for the for-profit charter industry. They make huge profits regardless of school performance.

Stephen Dyer reminds us of the great financial success of David Brennan of White Hat, the state’s largest charter chain.

“Now we know what White Hat Management is all about. There was always a pretty strong indication that White Hat was about making money, not educating children.

“After all, when you get exactly 1 A on a state report card and have 72 opportunities to get an A, you’re probably not in the game for the same reasons most educators are.

“When you’ve collected more than $1 billion in taxpayer money without having to make a single appearance before a legislative committee, as White Hat founder David Brennan has been able to do, you’re probably not in the game for the same reasons most educators are.

“When you contribute more than $4…

View original post 164 more words

March 11, 2015

News – Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager

It seems kind of fitting that a day after the release of the third annual NEPC report that indicated virtual schools remain unproven that this item scrolls across my electronic desk.

Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is the largest charter school in the state of Ohio.  The online school is easily the largest charter school in Ohio, is larger than the vast majority of Ohio’s traditional school districts, and received over $88 million in state funding last school year.  This year that amount is expected to jump to over $92 million.

On the latest report cards released by the Ohio Department of Education, ECOT continues to rank below all of the 8 large urban schools that are often-criticized by legislators and in the media for their “sub-par” performance.

For graduation rate, a key indicator for the long-term success of a school/district, ECOT’s 4-year graduation rate is a paltry 35.3%, while their 5-year graduation rate of 37.8%, which is only slightly higher, was still over 25 points worse than the lowest urban school district, Cleveland, which checked in at 63.3%.  While we now see the legislature writing laws to specifically regulate Cleveland and Columbus more tightly, the charter school laws that apply to ECOT continue to be more lax.

And while the data on performance for this school of 13,836 students (11th largest “district” in the Ohio) is bad enough, the financial games played by the school’s owner/operator are even worse.  We wrote a comprehensive piece about ECOT back in 2011, but since then the school has continued to grow and continued to siphon ever larger sums of money away from higher-performing schools.

On December 8, our post, Ohio’s Largest Taxpayer-Funded Charter School, ECOT, Receives Bonus Check, described how the school was up for approval of an additional $2.9 million dollar bonus from Governor Kasich’s Straight A Fund.

On December 10, we posted a follow-up, ECOT Founder Living VERY Well Off Ohio’s School Funding Dollars, where we went into greater detail about the financial games being played and won by ECOT’s Founder, William Lager.

Today, we have another update to the political donations and financial windfall experienced by Lager.

To continue reading, visit

I say interesting because the NEPC report found several things that are key to this blog item:

  1. Research into student performance in full-time K-12 online learning environments shows cyber schools (like ECOT) do quite poorly overall.
  2. Generally legislation and regulation are not based on what we know from the available research.

It also highlights something that the NEPC report alludes to, but doesn’t come right out and say:

  • Most cyber charter policy is being driven by corporate interests that look to profit from K-12 education.

And profit they do, according to the Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager entry.  It seems that annual donations over a 14 year period of just under $1.5 million is good enough to help fetch you just over $110,000,000 for your companies from the public education trough!!!


« Previous PageNext Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,568 other followers