Michael Morrison, writing for Decisions Based on Evidence, brings to our attention some recent reports on the failures of virtual schools (or e-schools) in places other than Ohio. Here's findings from Colorado
Minnesota is also finding similar problems
“While the number of course registrations has quadrupled over the last few years, full-time online students have become less likely to finish the courses they start. Course-completion rates for full-time online students dropped from 84 percent in the 2006-07 school year to 63 percent in 2009-10. During this period, several individual online schools experienced large and steady declines in course-completion rates, while only one program showed significant improvement.”
And in Pennsylvania, K-12 Inc.’s Agora Cyber Charter School's results are terrible.
Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.
We've mentioned K-12 Inc. before and noted they are Ohio's fastest growing virtual school provider. It appears there is a two fold reason why K-12 is Ohio's fastest growing, a reason that might also indicate why academic performance isn't so stellar. Stephen Dyer at 10th Period notes from K-12's financial filings
In fiscal year 2011, we derived approximately 13% of our revenues from each of the Ohio Virtual Academy and the Agora Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania. In aggregate these schools accounted for approximately 26% of our total revenues. If our contracts with any of these virtual public schools are terminated, the charters to operate any of these schools are not renewed or are revoked, enrollments decline substantially, funding is reduced, or more restrictive legislation is enacted our business financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
This means the laws in Ohio and Pennsylvania are so beneficial to online schools that one of the nation's biggest operators cannot exist without those laws remaining in place. As we reported last year at Innovation Ohio, Ohio Virtual Academy had a 51:1 student-teacher ratio, and this is on top of them getting enough state money to have a 15:1 student-teacher ratio and give $2,000 laptops to every child while still clearing 31.5% profit. In fact, they spend barely 10% of their money on teachers -- easily the lowest percentage of any of the major statewide eSchools. That means 90% of their $59 million in state money they got last year went to things other than teachers. But they don't have buildings, custodians, lunch ladies, or buses to maintain. So what where could the remaining $53 million in Ohio taxpayer money be going?
It would be a shame if K-12's milking the Ohio taxpayer to subsidize their other operations, as their SEC filing indicates it's doing.
An even greater shame that thousands of Ohio's virtual school students are being short changed a quality education at the expense of next quarters financial report.