As the popularity of online public schools grows, so does concern about the quality of education students are receiving. Supporters see the programs as innovative and affordable, while public officials in a number of states are reporting poor grades and worse graduation rates.
New applications for online schools in Maine, New Jersey, and North Carolina are being denied, according to a Yahoo! News report, while the auditor general of Pennsylvania claims online schools in his state are being overpaid by at least $105 million per year. In addition, state education officials in Florida have accused virtual schools of hiring uncertified teachers and an Ohio study reports that nearly every online school in that state ranks below average for student academic growth.
Cyber-school officials note their students are often behind traditional students and need time to catch up. A recent study by the University of Arkansas showed steady improvement for students who remained in online schools for several years.
However, a Stanford report found online students in Pennsylvania made “significantly smaller gains in reading and math” than traditional public school students. At the same time, the first virtual school in Tennessee had the lowest possible score for student growth.
“I’m not closing the door on it, but we have to do it right,” said Assemblywoman Connie Wager, who has held public hearings on virtual schools in New Jersey.