Virtual School Meanderings

October 30, 2014

Article Notice – The Nature of Online Charter Schools: Evolution and Emerging Concerns

Note that this is an article I was involved with that was officially published on Monday.

Hasler Waters, L., Barbour, M. K., Menchaca, M. P. (2014). The nature of online charter schools: Evolution and emerging concerns. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(4), 379-389.

October 20, 2014

Article Notice: Can Virtual Schools Thrive In The Real World?

This actually came through via the ProQuest/EBSCO Alerts over the weekend…  I’ve re-produced all of the information that you can obtain on the website for free below.

November 2014, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 57-62

Date: 07 Oct 2014

Can virtual schools thrive in the real world?


Despite the relatively large number of students enrolled in Ohio’s virtual schools, it is unclear how virtual schools compare to their traditional school counterparts on measures of student achievement. To provide some insight, we compared the school performance from 2007-2011 at Ohio’s virtual and traditional schools. The results suggest that Ohio’s virtual schools have grown rapidly, but also have experienced much lower levels of school performance than traditional schools. In light of these findings, we discuss factors that may be contributing to the large number of low-performing virtual schools in Ohio. Considering the lack of sufficient evidence that Ohio’s virtual schools are effective, we conclude that the relentless pursuit to expand virtual schools is problematic.


  1. Aud, S., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Kristapovich, P., Rathbun, A., Wang, X., and Zhang, J. (2013). The Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013-037). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC. Retrieved from
  2. Barbour, M. K. (2013). The landscape of K-12 online learning: Examining what is known. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of distance education (3rd ed.) (pp. 574-593). New York, NY: Routledge.
  3. Barbour, M., K. & Reeves, T. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 52(2), 402-416. CrossRef
  4. Bathon, J. (2011). Model legislation related to online learning opportunities for students in public elementary and secondary education schools. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from
  5. Carnahan, C., & Fulton, L. (2013). Virtual forgotten: Special education students in cyber schools. TechTrends, 57(4), 46-52. CrossRef
  6. Carr-Chellman, A. A., & Marsh, M. (2009). Pennsylvania cyber school funding: Follow the money. TechTrends, 53(4), 49-55. CrossRef
  7. Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. (n.d). Who we are. Retrieved from
  8. Findlay Digital Academy. (n.d.) What is FDA. Retrieved from
  9. Glass, G. V., & Welner, K. G. (2011). Online K-12 schooling in the U.S.: Uncertain private ventures in need of public regulation. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from
  10. Hubbard, B., & Mitchell, N. (2011). Online K-12 schools failing students but keeping tax dollars. I-News Network. Retrieved from
  11. Miron, G., Huerta, L., Cuban, L., Horvitz, B., Gulosino, C., Rice, J. K., & Shafer, S. R. (2013). Virtual schools in the U.S. 2013: Politics, performance, policy, and research evidence. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from
  12. National Forum on Education Statistics. (2006). Forum guide to elementary/secondary virtual education (NFES2006-803). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
  13. O’Donnell, P., & Bloom, M. (2012, September 30). How online education is changing school in Ohio. State Impact NPR. Retrieved from
  14. Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. (2009). E-schools show superior Results: Analysis of state value-added data confirms e-schools students’ progress. Retrieved from
  15. Ohio Department of Education. (2012). Opening 5 new e-schools. Retrieved from
  16. Ohio Report Cards. (2013). 2010-2012 Guide to understanding Ohio’s accountability system. Retrieved from
  17. Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) § 3314.
  18. Performance Index. (2013). Ohio Department of Education: Report Card. Retrieved from
  19. Rhim, L., & Kowal, J. (2008). Demystifying special education in virtual charter schools. Alexandra, VA: Special Education Technical Assistance for Charter Schools Project.
  20. Ryman, A., & Kossan, P. (2011). The race to online: Arizona experiments with virtual K-12 schools. Will they work for your child? Arizona Republic. Retrieved from
  21. Wang, Y., & Decker, J. R. (in press). Examining digital inequities in Ohio’s K-12 virtual schools: Implications for educational leaders and policymakers. International Journal of Education Reform.
  22. Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., Rapp, C. (2012). Keeping pace with K-12 online & blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved from

September 24, 2014

Cashing In On Kids – Cyber Charters

Note, this resource came across my radar screen over the past few days.

Cashing In On Kids

 It is a resource put together by the American Federation of Teachers, designed to:

conducts research and public education programs designed to help ensure that public schools put the students’ interest above corporate interests that are increasingly taking control of public education policy and institutions. Six critical elements are necessary to meet this goal: transparency, accountability, quality, oversight, equity and public control. This website includes examples of charter schools, many of them run by for-profit companies, that lack these critical elements and, as a result, do a poor job of serving students and taxpayers.

I did note that they have a Cyber Charters page that focuses primarily on K12, Inc..  Check them out as it is quite enlightening, and based largely on the work of journalists and independent researchers.


August 26, 2014

Michigan And Charter School Authorizers

Last week – or the week before – this came across my electronic desk.

Michigan charter school authorizers face suspension

LANSING, Mich. – State Superintendent Mike Flanagan is putting 11 of Michigan’s 40 charter school authorizers on notice of possible suspension.

If suspended, the public universities, community colleges and school districts couldn’t open more charter schools. Their current schools could stay open.

Flanagan said Monday the authorizers are deficient in transparency, accountability and fiscal governance. Their schools as a whole rank in the bottom 10 percent academically.

Authorizers at risk of suspension have until Oct. 22 to remediate their deficiencies. Flanagan will decide in November whether to suspend them.

Authorizers at risk are Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan, Kellogg Community College and school districts in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. The state-run Education Achievement Authority and Macomb Intermediate School District also are in jeopardy.

I should note that Ferris State are the authorizers for the Connections Academy cyber charters in the state, and Grand Valley are the authorizers for the K12, Inc. cyber charters.

At about the same time, these entries came across Diane Ravitch’s blog:

Interesting read, with K-12 online learning overtones…

August 19, 2014

Entry #10,000 – NYTimes: Teaching Is Not a Business

00wi1This is the 10,000th entry on this blog – wow!  I have to say wow because I would never have guessed that I had done that much (even if many of the entries are just copied and pasted).  I figured that given the number, that this entry should be an original one.

In the past few days this appeared in the New York Times.

Teaching Is Not a Business

TODAY’S education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.

Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.

Marketplace mantras dominate policy discussions. High-stakes reading and math tests are treated as the single metric of success, the counterpart to the business bottom line. Teachers whose students do poorly on those tests get pink slips, while those whose students excel receive merit pay, much as businesses pay bonuses to their star performers and fire the laggards. Just as companies shut stores that aren’t meeting their sales quotas, opening new ones in more promising territory, failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place.

To continue reading…

The only reference that the author makes about K-12 online learning actually occurs in the very next paragraph.  It begins:

Charter schools have been promoted as improving education by creating competition. But charter students do about the same, over all, as their public school counterparts, and the worst charters, like the online K-12 schools that have proliferated in several states, don’t deserve to be called schools.

While the blanket statement isn’t quite accurate, the sentiment does jive with the research.  Online or cyber charter schools that serve students statewide tend to do rather poorly.  We’ve seen this in state audits, independent research, investigative journalism, etc..

Center for Research on Education Outcomes. (2011). Charter school performance in Pennsylvania. Stanford, CA: Author.

Colorado Department of Education. (2006). Report of the State Auditor: Online education. Denver, CO: Author.

Hubbard, B., & Mitchell, N. (2011). Online K-12 schools failing students but keeping tax dollars. I-News Network. Retrieved from

Joint Legislative Audit Committee. (2010). An evaluation: Virtual charter schools. Madison, WI: Legislative Audit Bureau.

Layton, L., & Brown, E. (2011, November 26). Virtual schools are multiplying, but some question their educational value. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Miron, G., & Urschel, J. (2012). Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools. Denver, CO: National Education Policy Center.

Office of the Legislative Auditor. (2011). K-12 online learning. St. Paul, MN: Author.

Ryman, A., & Kossan, P. (2011). The race to online: Arizona experiments with virtual K-12 schools. Will they work for your child? Arizona Republic. Retrieved from

Zimmer, R., Gill, B., Booker, K., Lavertu, S., Sass, T. R., & Witte, J. (2009) Charter schools in eight states effects on achievement, attainment, integration, and competition. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

This is just a sample…

The bottom line is that we have found that those full-time K-12 online learning programs that have success share some of the following characteristics: they are geographically-focused, they often require students to spend a certain amount or percentage of time on campus; many allow students to earn time away from campus for good academic behaviour, many limit the number of courses that students can enroll in at any given time (allowing students to focus more on fewer courses), many maintain a managed growth model to ensure they are able to manage their growing pains, etc..  Why legislators and policy makers aren’t pursuing more regulations that promote these kinds of criteria, I have no clue?!?

Actually, I do have some idea as to why – and it has nothing to do with education and everything to do with ideology and money!

« Previous PageNext Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,940 other followers