Distance Learning | News

Virtual School Enrollment Increases by Double Digits

Both the number of online virtual schools and the number of students enrolled in those schools grew substantially last year, according to a new report out of the University of Colorado Boulder. But the numbers aren't as high as you might expect.

According to a new report from the National Education Policy Center, which operates out of U Colorado Boulder's School of Education, there were 338 full-time virtual schools operating as part of a public education system in 30 states in the 2012-2013 academic year. That's up from 311 the previous year. The latest figure includes 54 new schools identified as being in active operation in the 2012-2013 school year and 27 that fell out owing to closures or lack of enrollment.

The report, Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence, found that total number of students enrolled at these schools hit about 243,000 in 2012-2013, up 21.7 percent from the previous year, according to the report. That's a significant percentage increase, though the total student enrollment figure still represents less than half a percent (0.49 percent) of the total student population of the United States public education system.

Forty-four percent of those virtual schools are being operated by private education management organizations, or EMOs (up three percentage points from the previous year), and those EMOs accounted for 72 percent of all enrolled students in 2012-2013 (up five percentage points from the previous year). A full half of those students (36 percent of the total virtual student population) attended schools operated by K12 Inc. The next leading provider was Connections Academy, which served 17 percent of the entire enrolled population.

All told, those two private, for-profit EMOs represented 52 percent of the total student population enrolled in full-time virtual schools.

The report also found significant cause for concern among virtual schools in the areas of perfance, AYP and on-time graduation rates. See our related story for further details.

The full report can be freely accessed at nepc.colorado.edu.

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 https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .