“Those making policy should be clear on this key point: there exists no research from evidence that full-time virtual schooling at the K-12 level is an adequate replacement for traditional face-to-face teaching and learning. Yet to date, this lack of support appears to have exerted little or no influence on the proliferation of virtual K-12 schools.”- National Education Policy Center, Online K-12 Schooling in the U.S.
Charter schools are tuition-free, independent public schools exempt from most of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools.
Online (or “virtual”) charters are a completely different matter. In contrast to traditional “brick and mortar” classrooms, online charter schools offer full-time learning—in front of a computer—not necessarily in a space dedicated to learning, or with any adult supervision. Students attending online charter schools give up their classroom seats and face-to-face time with teachers and other learning resources. As one educator noted, “The early development of children requires lots of interaction with other children for purposes of socialization, developing collaboration and teamwork, and self-definition.”
Online charter schools are a big business. Online charters are anticipated to grow by 43 percent between 2010 and 2015 with revenues reaching $24.4 billion.
What are the concerns over online charter schools?
Online charter schools are often cited as a cost-effective way to deliver education but research indicates lower test scores and higher dropout rates for online charters overall.
Other concerns about online instruction that directly impact student achievement include:
- Online charters offer limited interaction with teachers, and interaction may not extend beyond a particular course. In many cases, the student and teacher are not even online at the same time.
- The absence of academic standards raises concerns about quality of online instruction and curriculum.
- The quality of teacher preparation for delivering instruction online may be a problem since there are no standards for licensure or certification for teachers instructing students online.
- Some for-profit online charter corporations outsource teacher duties (tutoring and grading) to untrained personnel in India, and in Wisconsin, and some teacher responsibilities were offloaded to parents.
- The authenticity of student work since due to the inability to monitor test taking has led to a lack of credibility in testing results.
- Two-thirds of K-12, Inc.’s online charter school students leave after less than two years in the program.
Using an online learning environment for course recovery or to supplement face-to-face learning is highly recommended by educators and supported by research instead of replacing face-to-face learning entirely
Source: Please see “Facts on Online Charter Schools” on our website for more research, citations and information on this topic.
Last revised: March 7, 2013