The latest volley across the bow of virtual schools has been fired with the release of a new report by The Center for Public Education, a research arm of the National School Boards Association.
In "Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools," the researchers expressed acceptance of the fact that the use of online courses is accelerating in America at the same time they bemoaned a lack of clarity around virtual school costs, outcomes, and accountability. However, at least two observers from the virtual school side of education wondered if the report isn't really just a chance for public school advocates to take potshots at alternatives to traditional education.
"What is really notable about this issue is not what is known but more what is not known," said Center Director Patte Barth. "To begin with, it's very hard to determine how much it costs to provide different online learning opportunities. We've found that the lines of accountability for student progress are frequently blurred. Most importantly, there's not a lot of data on student results. What little we did find does not tell a good story. In fact, it shows overall that students in online full-time virtual schools aren't performing nearly as well as their peers in traditional brick and mortar schools."