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Withdrawals in North Carolina’s virtual charters continue to soar

Virtual charter schoolsIn January, we reported on the staggeringly high withdrawal rates in the pilot program for North Carolina’s two virtual charter schools.

An updated report, which is scheduled to be presented to the N.C. State Board of Education Wednesday afternoon, isn’t likely to assuage those concerns.

State staff were expected to explain to board members Wednesday how the publicly-funded virtual schools saw withdrawals only worsen in the last two months.

According to their report, N.C. Connections Academy, owned by the British multinational corporation Pearson PLC, counted a total of 505 students dropped out of the online school program in the first five months, or more than 25 percent of total enrollments in the school during that time period.

And Virtual Academy, managed by the controversial Virginia-based company K-12, Inc., saw 497 withdrawals in the first five months, meaning about 26 percent of their enrollments dropped out of the program.

Both withdrawal rates represent increases on the first three months at Connections Academy and Virtual Academy, which were logged at about 20 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

K-12 Inc.’s virtual programs have been a source of controversy across the country, particularly in states like California and Tennessee where residents lambasted the poor testing results for virtual school students.

A Stanford University study last fall showed students at virtual charters nationwide lagging far behind public school students in reading and math.

Supporters of virtual charter programs say they can be a means of transformation for students who struggle in traditional public school programs.

They have also responded to the high dropout rates in the early months by pointing out that virtual programs nationwide typically experience high numbers of withdrawals in their first months.

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