Sunday, January 31, 2010

online high schools: a disappointment?

Initial results from Washington's online high schools, at first glance, seem disappointing:
According to a state report released last month, nearly half of the students taking online classes in 2008 failed with an D or F grade.

Also, online school is not a get-out-of-WASL-free card. Full-time online students must take the test in person at a testing site set up by the school. Part-time students who take one or two classes online still test at their home districts.

Statewide, several online schools have a hard time getting their students to show up for the test, which results in mixed performance reviews.

In the six online schools the state studied, fewer than half of sophomores passed the reading WASL last spring, compared to 81 percent statewide. Less than 20 percent of those sophomores passed the math WASL.

Online school officials say the report is flawed. Students who skipped the WASL counted as a zero, which dragged the school average down.

Take out the “zeros” at Washington Virtual Academy for example, and 77 percent of their sophomores passed WASL reading. In math, 31 percent passed compared to 45 percent statewide....

Online school students at those six schools took the WASL 64 percent of the time, compared to nearly 98 percent statewide, the report said.
I'm pretty sure that the results can mostly be explained by the way online school is currently employed: as a second chance for students who've struggled in a traditional environment. A 50% passing rate, then, might actually represent a genuine success. We'll have to see longer-term results from districts that have a mixed approach. From a cost-benefit perspective, the lower infrastructure and instructional costs, even if the passing rate stays flat at 50%, might still make the project worthwhile.


Paul Hamann said...

I've never really understood on-line school as a solution for those who don't do well in traditional classrooms. If a kid is not turning in work or showing up when he/she has teachers and administrators riding them, more freedom, I have found, is far more of a negative than a positive. These results are not a surprise--although I do see where 50% might be considered a success, given the second-chance (or last-chance) clientele.

I think the whole thing might work better -reversed-. If on-line school were the default, and kids who were struggling got more individual attention in brick-and-mortar institutions? Maybe that's where we land in a hundred years?

Jim Anderson said...

It does make me wonder where we're headed. A few years ago, people were trumpeting "work at home" via the Internet, which has increased in popularity, but hasn't (yet?) transformed the business landscape. (Although this Wired article shows how manufacturing-at-home is churning out a new entrepreneurial class--so who knows?)

Dr Pezz said...

Well, this article detailed how a student of affluence and drive is making the grade (sorry, couldn't resist) while skiing.

I don't know of any online school using a cross-section of society as the public schools do.

In my experience, the only successful online students were the ones who would be successful in the traditional setting as well.

colorado nursing schools said...

I believe that it also depends on the students themselves -- their motivation. If they really do want to learn they have to exert effort in doing so. Most of the high school students that I know are mostly trying to break free rather than studying hard. Another thing is that even if there are online classes, these students still need people who will help and support them.