More than 14,000 Colorado K-12 students are expected to be taught online this year, and the companies that run these online schools are in hot water after being accused of collecting state money yet delivering poor quality education.
While an ever-increasing base of students and their families have chosen to take the online route rather than traditional classroom education, the state Board of Education is set to enhance their monitoring of cyber-schools, writes Greg Campbell at Yellow Scene Magazine.
The private companies that run the online schools receive the same per-pupil rate from the state as traditional schools that teach kids face-to-face. And while Colorado is expected to spend about $85 million this year teaching kids online, a recent report by the State Board of Education says that most of this money is spent with little oversight or accountability, making state officials wonder if taxpayers are getting what they're paying for.
While the schools record drop-out rates at close to 50 percent, the Board of Education has also condemned the below average test scores for online students.
The report also found:
One online school was found to have four licensed teachers to instruct some 1,500 students in all grade levels and in all subjects.
And contrary to what some advocates of virtual schools say, the state spent more teaching kids online than if they'd gone to a regular school.
The report says:
"For Fiscal Year 2006, the Department estimated that the State would have saved at least $6.7 million if all online students had enrolled in schools in their district of residence instead of in the online schools they actually attended."
Currently, 2 percent of all students in Colorado take their instruction online, however critics say that governmental oversight has not kept pace with enrollment.
Democratic Senate President Brandon Shaffer said:
"I know there are millions of dollars being bled from the system that have no accountability tied to them."
And now, the State Board of Education has ruled to heighten the amount of supervision it has over the schools. In an attempt to put them under more scrutiny it is thought that this measure would hold them just as accountable as traditional schools.
Amy Anderson, director of the state's Department of Education's office of innovation and choice, said:
"We're trying to be much more rigorous upfront about quality and best practices so we see hopefully stronger programs going forward."