Online Schools

New Mexico Won't Renew Largest Virtual School Charter

According to reporting by the Associated Press, New Mexico won't be renewing the charter for its largest online charter school due to "lagging academic performance," which could lead to its shuttering. State education representatives have voted down the renewal of the charter for New Mexico Connections Academy, which reported delivering online lessons to 1,538 students during the 2016-2017 school year from across the state and in grades 4-12.

The decision was made based on the school's performance report card, which reported high failure rates for student achievement in all grades for two years running. For example, in grade 4 the latest "not proficient" rate in reading was 88 percent; for math it was 90 percent. Every grade saw "not proficient" scores between 82 and 94 percent for math. In reading, the only grade that did better than that was grade 11, which had a "not proficient" score of 72 percent.

The graduation rate across the state of New Mexico was 71 percent for 2016; the graduation rate for that same period at the academy was 48 percent.

Education Commissioner Tim Crone told AP that "particular attention" was given to the school's inability to raise performance among students "who struggle the most academically." "We pay special attention to the lowest quartile," he said, "and Connections was not doing very well in that area." As one example, among English language learners, the state's "not proficient" rate overall was 80 percent; at the academy, it was greater than 95 percent.

The school's website refers to it as a "tight-knit school community, offering all the online services and resources needed to create a well-rounded student experience." It claimed "dozens" of clubs and activities, "dedicated and highly qualified teachers" and a STEM academy for delivering advanced coursework.

A survey conducted last January found agreement among parents regarding the "high quality" of the curriculum (96 percent agreed), teacher helpfulness (96 percent), and the ability of the school's technology tools to improve their child's learning experience (94 percent).

However, the website reported no information regarding academic outcomes for its students.

According to the AP reporting, the school has the right to appeal the Public Education Commission's decision. It could also reorganize under the oversight of a local school district. Otherwise, the virtual charter will 'be forced to close."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.