Report pans virtual charter performance in Idaho

virt-chartLast month, we reported on the troubling withdrawal rates reported in North Carolina’s pilot program for virtual charter schools, including the news that these online programs, led by for-profit companies, are not required to return their public funding despite dropouts.

Coupled with longtime reports of poor academics in virtual charters across the country, public education advocates have decried the use of public funding to support the schools.

Now comes a report last week in The Spokesman-Review about the very low graduation rate—about 20 percent—out of public-authorized virtual charters in the state of Idaho.

From the Spokesman-Review:

Some of Idaho’s state-authorized virtual charter schools specifically target at-risk, minority or underserved students, and some were set up locally. The largest, Idaho Virtual Academy, uses a curriculum developed by a national, for-profit education company and targets the general population. That virtual charter school has 2,237 Idaho students, according to the state Department of Education.

Kelly Edginton, head of school for the Idaho Virtual Academy, issued a statement Wednesday questioning the methodology behind the graduation rates. He said the rates don’t take into account the virtual schools’ high rate of transfer students who start out already behind on credits when they enter the schools, and said among the minority of students who remain at the IVA for all four years of high school, 90 percent graduate on time.

It should be noted that Idaho Virtual Academy is run by the controversial, for-profit group, K-12, Inc., which is also operating its own virtual academy in North Carolina. Per our report last month, that school had reported 331 withdrawals in the first three months of the school, or about 19 percent of its enrollment.

It’s too soon, however, to have academic performance data in the North Carolina schools.

One Comment

  1. Jeff Kwitowski

    February 1, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Your report left out the response from Idaho Virtual Academy’s head of school which provides important context:

    Educators are well aware of the fact that the federal grad rate was designed for traditional schools where most students are zoned into their local school/district and stay enrolled through their high school career. Every student in a virtual charter school is a transfer, and a large percentage of high school transfer students enter behind in credits and not on track to graduate on time. The grad rate unfairly penalizes schools that serve at-risk, under-credited transfer students.

    On withdrawal rates, did you examine withdrawal from other virtual schools, full-time and part time? Virtual Virginia, the state department-run program, reported a 28% withdrawal rate from its full-time program. Florida Virtual School, the large state-run program had course withdrawal rates over two years exceeding 35%. I’ve never seen the state-run NC Virtual Public School’s student withdrawal rates. Maybe they don’t disclose it or have never been asked to provide that data. I wonder if it’s comparable to other state-run programs.

    These measures are designed for traditional school systems; they are not a reflection of the quality of virtual school programs.

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