April 11, 2017

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Fifth Annual Virtual Schools Report Released Today

Authors suggest that policymakers focus on improving performance, research support, and developing policy in critical areas

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 11, 2017) — Virtual schools in the United States have been growing rapidly in recent decades. Their growth has been fueled in part by the belief that an online curriculum can better meet the needs of individual students, and that virtual schools are cost effective and educationally sound. As virtual schools have grown, so too has the need for additional research to develop better policies.

Today, the National Education Policy Center releases its 5th annual report on virtual education. The three-section report, Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017, funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, provides: (a) a detailed inventory of full-time virtual schools in the U.S.; (b) an exhaustive review of the literature on virtual education and its implications for virtual school practices; and (c) a detailed review and analysis of state-level policymaking.

Alex Molnar, University of Colorado Boulder, edited the report. Authors contributing to the report include: Gary Miron, Western Michigan University; Charisse Gulosino, University of Memphis, Christopher Shank, Western Michigan University, Caryn K. Davidson, Western Michigan University; Michael K. Barbour, Touro University; Louis Huerta, Teachers College - Columbia University; Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland, David Nitkin, Teachers College - Columbia University; and Sheryl Rankin Shafer.

The first section investigates full-time virtual and blended schools, including their enrollment, student characteristics, and performance. A second section focuses on the research evidence of all forms of K-12 virtual and blended learning.  Meanwhile, the final section looks at state-level virtual school policies in the following areas: finance and governance; instructional quality; and teacher quality.

Each section of the report reviews the relevant research, identifies critical areas, and includes a set of recommendations to policymakers.

The authors conclude that the current research base does not provide evidence for many current virtual school practices.  Additionally, this updated report notes that policymakers continue to struggle with funding, accountability, instructional quality, and staffing demands.

Find Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017 on the web:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder, produced the report with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/