Study: Little Student Learning At Ohio Charter E-Schools

Talk to any suburban classroom teacher and they will tell you that students coming from charter e-schools are typically a full year behind their peers, and it's a Herculean task to get them caught up. Now a new CREDO study lends data to this. Ohio's e-schools are simply not providing an education to their students.

Nationally, students learned the equivalent of 72 days of school less in reading and 180 days less in math, each school year, CREDO found.

For Ohio, online students learned 79 days less material in reading than peers in traditional schools and 144 less days in math, CREDO found.

Losing the equivalent of 180 days of learning is essentially the same as skipping school all year, said James (Lynn) Woodworth, a research analyst for CREDO.

Here's the national breakdown of e-school performance - it's terrible

Here's Ohio's efforts in teaching students to read - a loss of almost half a year

Finally, the total loss of a years worth of math instruction

Why are Ohio's eschools so catastrophic at educating our students? Another study by Mathematica, published alongside the CREDO study has some answers

Key Findings:

  • Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction
  • Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day
  • Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge
  • Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56 , and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction

These findings suggest reason for concern about whether the online charter school sector is likely to be effective in promoting the achievement of its students

These findings are inline with a story we recently published detailing how and why traditional schools in Ohio are out-innovating charter schools in e-learning

Charters can be seen to heavily rely upon a flex model of blended learning. In the Flex model, online learning is the major aspect of the students path. Students primarily learn online, while being seated in a brick-and-mortar structure. The teacher or aide is available for face-to-face support/structure and facilitates offline activities and group/whole-class discussion on a discretionary or need-be basis.

Whereas, traditional schools using a la carte models allow students to take one or more specific online courses while also taking traditional offline courses. For instance, a student may take an online math course while also taking science, language arts, and P.E. in a traditional offline setting.

The only true innovation Ohio's charter schools have perfected is profit taking, along every other dimension of measure they are being out-schools by traditional public schools.

But don't take our word for it, here's what some of the more level-headed charter school supporters are saying

"Students attending virtual charter schools simply are not learning enough," said Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy for the Fordham Institute. "Proponents of school choice are increasingly hard-pressed to defend virtual charters when their academic gains fall so far below the traditional schools against which they are compared."

Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, said no charter school has a right to educate children. Schools have to continually earn that privilege, which online schools are failing to do.

"These results are deeply troubling," he said. "There is a place for virtual schooling in our nation, but there is no place for results like these."

Remember, chartered e-schools were the schools that ODE was seeking to illegally protect from evaluations. Rather than protect them, we need to move quickly to close them down. Failing that, lawmakers need to consider funding e-schools using an outcome based system, rather than simple headcount.