Online students fall behind, transfer

Colorado’s online K-12 students fall behind their former classmates and often quit virtual schools to go back to brick-and-mortar classrooms, reports EdNews Colorado. The state compensates schools based on enrollment in the fall, so students bring no funding to their old schools if they give up on virtual schooling after a few months.

According to an I-News/EdNews analysis, half of Colorado’s online students quit within a year. Most lose ground on reading and math scores.  (See snapshots of the state’s five largest online programs.)

Online schools produce three times as many dropouts as they do graduates. One of every eight online students drops out of school permanently – a rate four times the state average.

. . . most are not struggling academically when they leave their traditional schools. Among the 2,400 online students who had taken a state standardized reading test in a brick-and-motor school the year before, the analysis showed that more than half had scored proficient or better.

At Branson Online School, one of the state’s oldest online programs, students beat the statewide average in proficiency in reading and were six percentage points short in math.

(Assistant Superintendent Judith) Stokes said growth slowed when the school focused on ensuring families understood the online program before enrolling because, “If you’re looking for easy, it’s not us.”

Full-time online students are exceptionally mobile in Ohio, as well, writes Bill Tucker on Education Next. He worries if teen-agers understand what they’re getting into when they sign up for a virtual school.


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  1. Catherine says:

    Having just one “student count” day each year (which determines where the funding for the whole year goes) is a big problem in Colorado. It limits student mobility past the count day for those with legitimate reasons to move schools mid-year (escape bullying, etc.) and gives money to some rather opportunistic operators who don’t care much if they lose students from their programs after the school count day.

  2. I’m shocked, shocked I say, that a “reform” lobbied for by hedge fund managers (see the stories about Goldman-Sachs forays into for profit education) would turn out not to work.

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    I’m shocked, shocked that any education reform, lobbied for by Goldman Sachs, the New England Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, some ed school professor, the Gates Foundation, or the federal Department of Education, would turn out not to work.