How did students enrolled in California’s online and virtual schools perform on the 2011 California Standards Test(CST)? After CST results were released on August 15th, I researched each of the schools from my previous post to discover how their students preformed in English, math, and Algebra I during the 2010/11 school year. The results are discouraging.
Online Learning Growth
While my current spreadsheet of California schools includes more than 50 online and virtual schools, only 35 schools have been online for two or more years. As a whole, these 35 schools experienced a 16% increase in students between 2009/10 and 2010/11. However, six of the 35 schools experienced decreased enrollment last year, averaging a 14% decline. Of the remaining 29 schools, student enrollment increased 21% between 2009/10 and 2010/11. The median increase was 48%.
Of the 45 schools with California Standards Test (CST) data, three had insufficient numbers of students taking each test (<10) to display results. The remaining 42 schools include three Rocketship schools and the San Francisco Flex Academy, all which utilize a blended model in a brick and mortar setting. The majority of these schools appear to be turn-key operations from a variety of online companies. These include 15 from K12.com, six Kaplan, six Advanced Academics, two by National University, two Connections Academies, and one Insight. I’ve not discovered who provides the content for the remaining schools.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
For the 2010/2011 school year, NCLB requires that at least 67.6% of elementary students reach proficiency in English-language arts (ELA) and that at least 68.5% reach proficiency in math. High Schools are required to have ELA proficiency levels of 66.7% and math proficiency levels of 66.1%. The range includes Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic and Far Below Basic. For the 2009/10 school year, NCLB required proficiency levels of 58% in math and 56.8% in ELA.
For the purpose of this post, I accessed the CST Summary reports for each school http://star.cde.ca.gov/star2011/ which showed combined ELA proficiency for grades two to 11 and combined math proficiency for grades two to seven. High school Algebra I scores were accessed through the CST search for each school. The percentage of “proficient” students includes both those in the “Advanced” and “Proficient” categories.
Of the 42 online & blended schools, only three (7%) scored well enough to meet this year’s federal NCLB requirements. Student proficiency in ELA ranged from 13%-76% (iHigh Virtual Academy). 19 online and blended schools had 50% or more proficient students in ELA. The median proficiency level was 48%. Nine schools would have met the 2009/10 requirements.
Math (Grades 2-7)
41 virtual/blended schools achieved math proficiency levels ranging from 3% to 85% (Rocketship Mateo Sheedy). The three Rocketship schools had proficiency levels of 80%, 84%, and 85%. Discounting these, the 38 remaining online schools and a median proficiency level of 17%. 11 of the 38 schools (29%) had less than 10% of their students achieve proficiency in math. 23 out of 38 schools (61%) had less than 20% of their students reach proficiency. Capistrano Connections Academy Charter performed the best of the remaining 38 schools with 37% of their students scoring Proficient or Advanced. So, discounting the Rocketship schools, none of California’s virtual schools meets this, or last, year’s NCLB requirements.
31 schools had Algebra I academic data results. Of those, only one, RAI Online Charter, had more than 50% of their students reach proficiency. The 31 schools ranged from 0% to 54% of their students scoring proficient in Algebra I. The median proficiency level was 12%. (Ok, let’s stop and think about this. HALF of California’s virtual schools had no more than 12% of their students score proficient on the Algebra I test.) 17 schools (45%) had less than 10% of their students reach proficiency. Only 3 schools had more than 20% proficient students; two of those were Connections Academies.
Why does the emperor have no clothes?
What are the causes of the dismal student performance in both mathematics and Algebra I? Are full-time virtual schools at a disadvantage when compared to blended/hybrid schools like Rocketship? What role does curriculum play? Is their something inherently wrong with the pedagogy or make-up of virtual math classes? Is there something different between the make-up of students who attend virtual schools versus those who are in brick-and-mortar schools? What role does the student-instructor play in the poor scores? What’s missing from mathematics and Algebra I curriculum that would lead to sub-par performance?
I have some ideas, but there are more than a few doctorates waiting for those who explore more deeply.