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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Why parents choose virtual schools

Virtual schooling has a bad reputation, writes Ian Kingsbury, a senior fellow at the Educational Freedom Institute, in City Journal. Researchers have found low achievement and a high dropout rate.

So why does enrollment keep growing? He suspects that what doesn't work for most students may prove "effective, even essential, for others."

Photo: Liza Summer/Pexels

"Demand for virtual schools is often driven by concern about transparency and the transmission of values, as well as bullying and lack of safety in brick-and-mortar schools," he writes. "For some students, including those struggling with drug addiction, unique health challenges, or homelessness, these schools represent their lone chance at obtaining a high school diploma."

It's very hard to compare virtual students to in-person students based on demographics, Kingsbury points out. Those who choose a virtual school are far more likely to have academic, social and emotional problems.

In a recent EdChoice report, 48 percent of parents of students in the largest virtual charter network report said that bullying was a problem at their child's previous school, compared to 27 percent of parents whose child switched to a brick-and-mortar school.

While online teaching proved unpopular for most students when schools were closed, some saw it as a haven from social pressures, Faith Karimi reported for CNN.

“For children with social anxiety, virtual learning took away the social pressures to look or act a certain way,” said Robyn Mehlenbeck, director of the Center for Psychological Services at George Mason University. “There were fewer pressures to dress a certain way, cameras were often off so no one could see their expressions and there was less pressure to verbally participate in front of others.”

Shun Jester, 10, said he opted to stay online to avoid schoolyard bullies.

New York City plans to establish two virtual schools for students who just don't want to go to physical schools. They "are likely to feature low levels of observed achievement and high rates of mobility," Kingsbury writes. But, for some families, "virtual schools represent a vital option."

116 views4 comments


Jun 07, 2023

"Those who choose a virtual school are far more likely to have academic, social and emotional problems."

This an old refrain by those trying to keep kid entrapped in the classroom. They argued the vo-tech kids were the dummies back in my day when they moved shop off campus to a "special" school up the road. BTW, and it was impossible to take a vo-tech class and do the college-prep academic classes since you had to go half a day to the other campus.

But it is a losing battle with virtual, online or home schooling as more and more of the kids who grew up that way are becoming publicly known online. Virtual/online/home school is for kids who wan…


Jun 06, 2023

In my neck of the woods, people are voting with their feet and moving down to Florida. Florida Virtual gets their business...pacing that works for the student, school schedule that works for the family, electives such as Foreign Language 2 & 3, and even better...the academics are the full course or honors levels, not 'just enough for the pass' full inclusion.


Jun 06, 2023

Avoiding schoolyard bullies is nice, but it doesn't give the student the skills to deal with workplace bullies later on. It would be wonderful if the world was a happy fun place where nothing bad ever happened, but it's not. Learning this fact and how to deal with it is an essential part of growing up.

Encasing students in cotton doesn't seem like a policy that will lead to resilient adults later on.

Jun 06, 2023
Replying to

But, frequently in school, the teachers/administrators ignore the bullying and that is less likely in the workplace. Also, folks can leave jobs if they are toxic (and Ask A Manager has some wild tales of toxic workplaces).

Another thing that I have read about producing resilient adults is knowing that your family has your back. That's harder to put into practice in the school system.

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