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Charter Schools See Largest Enrollment Increase in 14 Years

Charter school enrollments grew 12.6 percent in the 2012-2013 school year, with nearly 6,440 total public charter schools serving 2.57 million students across the United States. That's up from 1.45 million in 2008-2009 and 0.79 million in 2003-2004, representing the largest increase in 14 years, according to a new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

According to previously published data for the 2009-2010 school year, fully online charter schools used to make up 4.5 percent of the total number of schools, which in 2010 amounted to 219 individual schools. An additional 134 schools (2.7 percent) were hybrid, with eight other schools offering some combination of hybrid and fully face-to-face instruction. Complete figures for the 2012-2013 school year were not available. (We previously reported a decline in the number of charter schools that were operated as fully online virtual schools or hybrids. However, the data that was supplied to us turned out to be incomplete. Please see the editor's note at the end of this article for further details.)

According to separate data published last May by the National Education Policy Center, in 2011-2012 there were 311 fully online virtual schools, of which 64 percent were organized as charter schools — or roughly 200 total, a slight decline from NAPCS's 2009-2010 statistics.

Across all school types, the number of charter schools increased by a net 436 schools, taking into account 206 charter school closures and 642 new school openings, an increase of 7.3 percent in new schools and an increase of 12.6 percent in the number of students served.

NAPCS reported that the closures occurred for a number of reasons, including "low enrollment, financial concerns and low academic performance."

"The goal of the charter school movement is not simply to increase the number of schools and students enrolled, but rather the number of high-quality public school options for families who need them most," said Nina Rees, president and CEO of NAPCS, in a prepared statement. "These closures reflect that and we will continue to advocate for strong accountability measures to ensure that only high-quality schools are allowed to serve our nation's students."

She said the overall increases in charter school numbers were attributable the academic quality of the programs. "Families are catching on, and these enrollment figures reflect that."

Editor's note: This article has been modified since its original publication. Numbers supplied to us by NAPCS turned out to be incomplete and thus inaccurate. We are working on getting updated figures. Here is what we previously reported:

However, the number of online charter schools has dipped slightly from the previously reported figure. In 2012-2013, there were 212 fully online charter schools and 129 schools that were hybrid or offered some combination of virtual and face-to-face instruction. Combined, the two types of schools represented about 5.3 percent of the total number of charter schools in the United States.

Enrollment in fully online charter schools hit 168,917 in 2012-2013. Enrollment in hybrid virtual schools was 55,432, for a combined total of 224,349 receiving some form of virtual instruction via a charter school. That represents roughly 8.7 percent of the entire public charter school student population. (Previous years' enrollment figures were not available at press time.)

Last modified Feb. 13, 2014, 4:52 p.m. —D.N.


About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .