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The Schools Where Kids Learn Nothing?

Photograph by Twenty20

If you're thinking of enrolling your child in an online charter school, you might as well not enroll them in school at all. At least that's the conclusion of a study that was, extra damningly, funded by a private pro-charter foundation .

Valerie Strauss wrote about the findings for the Washington Post. The study, conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, and in collaboration with the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington and Mathematica Policy Research, calls into question the effectiveness of charter schools where students self-pace through online curriculum. The Walton Family Foundation, known for its support of expanding charter schools around the country, paid for part of this CREDO study.

The study's objective was to answer whether enrollment in an online charter school affected the academic growth of the programs' students. Using standardized tests for math and language arts from students who attended online charter schools between 2008 and 2013, researchers compared those scores to traditional public schools (not other charter schools).

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Three big things came to light:

  • Online charter school students "lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading."
  • Online charter school students "lost 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year."
  • The average online charter school student "had lower reading scores than students in traditional schools everywhere except Wisconsin and Georgia, and had lower math scores everywhere except in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin."

Not great outcomes for this growing sector of charter schools. Education researchers are using this data to call for less or more cautious expansion of online charter schools and also recognition that they're not a great fit for all the students they hope to serve. They also say the findings point toward too little oversight of online charter schools.
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