April 20, 2016

Gary Miron, (269) 387-3883, gary.miron@wmich.edu
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

4th Annual Virtual Schools Report

Online schools continue to grow, struggle

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 20, 2016) — The Virtual Schools Report 2016: Directory and Performance Review report is the fourth in an annual series of research briefs on the fast-growing U.S. virtual school sector. This year’s report provides a comprehensive directory of the nation’s full-time virtual and blended learning providers.

The report finds little research has examined the inner workings of these schools. Also, the report finds that students attending these schools differ from those in traditional public schools, and the school outcomes are consistently below traditional public schools.

Gary Miron, professor of evaluation, measurement, and research at Western Michigan University, and Charisse Gulosino, assistant professor of leadership and policy studies at the University of Memphis are the authors of this year’s report. Alex Molnar, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, provides a foreword to the report.

This report provides a detailed census of full-time virtual and blended schools, including student demographics, state-specific school performance ratings, and a comparison of virtual school outcomes with state norms.

Based on the findings, the authors make several recommendations, including:

  • Policymakers should slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual and blended schools until their relatively poor performance have been identified and addressed;
  • States should seek to understand why virtual and blended schools perform weakly, and how their performance can be improved;
  • Virtual and blended schools should be held to the same standards as other publicly funded schools;
  • Policymakers should require virtual schools devote more resources to instruction;
  • State agencies should ensure that virtual and blended schools fully report data related to the population of students they serve and the teachers they employ;
  • State and federal policymakers should promote efforts to design new outcome measures, which capture the unique characteristics of virtual and blended schools;
  • More research should be supported to understand policy options for funding and accountability mechanisms, and to increase our understanding of the inner workings of virtual and blended schools.

Find the report on the web:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) 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/