Walton Foundation sounds alarm on virtual charters. ‘Stark evidence most…have negative impact.’

In November, we discussed the findings of the National Study of Online Charter Schools, a series of three reviews commissioned  by the largest private funder of charter schools, the Walton Family Foundation.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes or CREDO at Stanford University, the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington and Mathematica Policy Research looked at students in 158 virtual schools in 17 states including Georgia. The students took all their classes online through schools typically run by private providers rather than school districts.

In math, students were 180 days – an entire school year – behind peers in traditional public schools. In reading, they were 72 days behind.

NO CAPTION

As a result of the studies it underwrote, the Walton Family Foundation is now adding its influential voice to those calling for an overhaul of online schools. In an essay in Education Week, two foundation leaders say that if virtual charters were grouped together and ranked as a single school district, it would be the ninth-largest in the country and among the worst-performing.

The foundation stops short of calling for a moratorium on new virtual charters, but says, “It is clear that what exists doesn’t create the academic opportunities children need.”

In their column, Marc Sternberg, the director of education giving at the Walton Family Foundation, and Marc Holley, the foundation’s evaluation-unit director, write: (This is a short excerpt. Please read full piece at Ed Week.)

 We funded three research studies—by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (or CREDO), at Stanford University; the Center on Reinventing Public Education, at the University of Washington; and Mathematica Policy Research—to investigate this question. As with all of our research dollars, we committed to funding these research teams regardless of what their investigations revealed.

The results are, in a word, sobering. The CREDO study found that over the course of a school year, the students in virtual charters learned the equivalent of 180 fewer days in math and 72 fewer days in reading than their peers in traditional charter schools, on average. This is stark evidence that most online charters have a negative impact on students’ academic achievement. The results are particularly significant because of the reach and scope of online charters: They currently enroll some 200,000 children in 200 schools operating across 26 states. If virtual charters were grouped together and ranked as a single school district, it would be the ninth-largest in the country and among the worst-performing.

Funders, educators, policymakers, and parents cannot in good conscience ignore the fact that students are falling a full year behind their peers in math and nearly half a school year in reading, annually. For operators and authorizers of these schools to do nothing would constitute nothing short of educational malpractice.

 

Reader Comments 0

24 comments
blue_moon111
blue_moon111

Efforts to replace the classroom teacher with virtual learning continue...While an advanced and/or self-motivated student can quickly click through an assigned course and google answers to tests, a struggling learner assigned to a virtual course generally relies on his/her  peers to give them the answers or to complete the course for them.  Either way, neither student has  truly "earned" a grade for the course.  Also, school districts are well aware of the fact that students are actually paying others  to complete virtual courses for them yet nothing is being done--Absolutely, no accountability.


Before students  receive credit for a virtual course, they should be required to  pass assessments at a proctored location.  


ParentTeacher
ParentTeacher

What about all of our student who are being enrolled in online courses through programs like edgenuity?  These are a joke for many subjects yet our district and many others see this as the future of education and the way to "Flip" classrooms.


Had a student 2 days ago that is enrolled in online courses for half the day tell me that the courses are super easy.  They watch a few videos take a few quizzes and then take a unit test.  He said they can take the tests twice but said there is no need, you just copy and paste the questions in google to get the answers.  He makes hundreds on all his tests.


He said this is true for all the classes he takes except math because you can't just find the answers as easy.

CSpinks
CSpinks

The evaluations of all of our various public educational enterprises by competent, disinterested, external entities should be the standard.


And, no, SACS/AdvancED meets none of these criteria for such entities.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

Why is this story being re-run?  There was a column on this a number of months back.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The state run online charter school that gets taxpayer money for thousands of students has a CCRPI of 34(local public schools will be taken over by the state with this score) and seems to have graduated only 161 students last year. The school has provided unknown amounts of profits to corporate vendors, does not post salaries, has changed it's name, and from the looks of it, will be allowed to continue business as usual despite failing CCRPI and not meeting the charter contract goals.

blue_moon111
blue_moon111

@AvgGeorgian The state's virtual learning school should be on Governor Deal's takeover list.  If the CCRPI score of 34 you've reported is true for the STATE run online charter,  maybe Gov. Deal should fix his own school before he tries to tell district leaders how to fix theirs.

gapeach101
gapeach101

If students are 180 days behind their peers after a year in a virtual school, that means they didn't learn anything all year.

I clicked through to see the supporting information, and that's  what it said as well.  

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@gapeach101 

Ponder how much more behind these children will be than their peers if this lack of success is allowed to accrue, year after year.

newsphile
newsphile

Has there been an analysis of the on-line charter management company in GA?  It would be good to know how many dollars they receive from GA, how many of their students are gainfully employed after two years, how many go on to higher education, etc.  I believe they are positioned to become even more significant under OSD, and that would mean more tax funded dollars.  It would be good to hear a fact-based opinion from someone not associated with the company as to how effective they are. 

CSpinks
CSpinks

@AvgGeorgian @newsphile That info may be a "state secret." Should anyone believe that the concept of "state secret" is alien to The Empire State of The South, I can vouch that a state investigator provided me a "state secret" reason for declining to answer a question I posed him during a GDOC investigation twenty-five years ago.

gapeach101
gapeach101

Hmmm, I wonder if this was going to be the format for the schools taken over by the State (should that pass).

newsphile
newsphile

@gapeach101 I believe it's going to be one of the major components of OSD and another major component will be for-profit charter management companies, most from out-of-state or with token board membership from GA to claim in-state presence.  I'm thinking there's a reason they contributed so much to the most recent governor's race. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The "new rules" for state charter schools seem to allow them to escape closure for not meeting their charter contract goals - they can instead choose to be evaluated in a new, easier way.


"For purposes of upcoming SCSC charter renewals, all state charter schools with existing charter contracts will be allowed to choose whether they wish to be evaluated by the terms of the current contracts (performance goals) OR whether they wish to be evaluated in accordance with the new comprehensive performance framework."


https://scsc.georgia.gov/scsc-comprehensive-performance-framework


I assume schools to be taken over by the OSD won't receive this offer of an alternative to CCRPI


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I will say louder what I have said in many more words in the past:


"Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing."


There will always be a wide range of students' skill/concept functioning within any grade level.  The only way to solve this ongoing problem is to "roll up our educational sleeves" and continuously work with individual students in a physical classroom where they are each functioning, with great care and with innovative and sophisticated instructional competence.  When you are ready, contact me.


www.wordpress.com/maryelizabethsings

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Provost Academy – State run Charter Commission Online School - Now renamed as Graduation Achievement Charter High School

14-15

3559 students

161 graduates – 0 HOPE eligible

CCRPI =34

Salaries – not available

Payments to corporate vendors – not available


southerntchr
southerntchr

@AvgGeorgian The "superintendent" made 100,000 two years ago when I was there.  The Chief Academic officer (lol), a former science teacher with little experience was up to 85,000.  The "Chief Leadership Officer", in his early 30s, was at 90,000.  The other "outreach" leader was at 85,000.  All to do nothing, but harass everyone and run everyone away.  The turnover there is crazy!   The curriculum changes with the wind.  They were enrolling students with no proof of residency or citizenship, no birth certificates, etc.  It was ridiculous.  The "leader" said, "This is a business, not a staffing agency.  We have to show and make a profit."  Truancy was horrid.   Something going on there with super and governor.  How she sleeps at night is beyond me. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I imagine that for certain, relatively few, students, online charter instruction can work well.  For most students who chose or are guided into online instruction, however, many are  already behind and they or their parents see this as a panacea--an easy way to "succeed." It is not. It takes tremendous commitment and discipline.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Wascatlady Unfortunately, there's a lot of easy taxpayer money profit to be made off this population.