Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Group releases study which finds that often online education is like not receiving an education at all.

Courtesy of The Washington Post:  

The study was done by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, known as CREDO, and located at Stanford University, in collaboration with the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington and Mathematica Policy Research. CREDO’s founding director, Margaret Raymond, served as project director. CREDO receives funding from the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation, which provided support for the new research. 

In its newest report, released this week, CREDO evaluated online K-12 charter schools. There are 17 states with online charter students: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia. 

The study sought to answer this question: “How did enrollment in an online charter school affect the academic growth of students?” Academic growth, as mentioned before, is measured by standardized test scores for the purpose of this study, which evaluated scores from online charter students between 2008 and 2013 and compared them to students in traditional public schools (not brick-and-mortar charters). Here are some of the findings: 

Students in online charters lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading. 
Students in online charters lost 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year. Yes, you read that right. As my colleague Lyndsey Layton wrote in this story about the study, it’s as if the students did not attend school at all when it comes to math. 
The average student in an online charter had lower reading scores than students in traditional schools everywhere except Wisconsin and Georgia, and had lower math scores everywhere except in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. 

Layton quoted Raymond as saying, “There’s still some possibility that there’s positive learning, but it’s so statistically significantly different from the average, it is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire year.”

I actually have some experience with online education as well, for the continuing education that I have to do for my job, and I can concur that what I "learn" online is often harder for me to retain than the classes that I attend in person. 

My daughter has also studied online courses, and though she always passes them with ease, her retention is not that great either. 

There is something to be said for being part of a class listening to a teacher as being superior to reading materials online or watching instructional videos.

Just another reminder that public education is USUALLY far superior to its various alternatives.


  1. Anonymous3:08 AM

    Who exactly is monitoring that is is the children taking the exams or doing the homework and not their parents-no one.

    We are raising a society of anti-social children as it is, they spend all their time texting each other, no one is learning social behavior or manners any longer and they want to further isolate them with home schooling.

    Just another for profit for the GOP and another method to ruin our public schools.

  2. Anonymous4:05 AM

    Actually, Gryphen, I don't think it is being in class listening to a teacher that makes in-person classes better. It's the directed discussion and exchange of ideas. Even though on-line classes usually require a certain amount of interaction among students on a discussion board, it is nowhere near the same. The in-person classes are much richer in content.

    1. Anonymous11:06 AM

      I've done some online teaching for teacher professional development and what you say is exactly right. In my course, I was a facilitator and the teachers were responsible for working things out together, including doing home lab experiments, comparing results and reaching conclusions. The problem is that this type of learning is VERY different from a classroom. You certainly can't "cover" the same amount of topics because the learning is asynchronous and you need to wait for everyone to contribute. I found that the really good learners used Skype and phone calls to better collaborate, and in these cases it really mimicked the classroom experience. I don't see how inexperienced students could handle a course like this- they need far too much supervision, sort of like, well, a teacher.

  3. Anonymous4:52 AM

    A few years ago, I enrolled my oldest in a dual program; community college and online accredited high school. The online program was barely okay at the beginning, and once it was bought out by a for-profit organization, the academics crumbled. At the end, all the classes came from the community college. Learning online is difficult enough (problems with socialization and the issues with miscommunication) with a good program--what evidence is there that the online curriculum in SC is good? None.

  4. Anonymous5:21 AM

    My daugter has a chronic illness and is taking half her 7th grade day online. I monitor her coursework, make sure she's keeping up with her work, and give her extra help when she needs it (which is often, even though she's in the "TAG" program, because she still needs a teacher like every kid). We would much rather have her in school full time but that's not possible right now. You can't just sit a kid in front of a computer and be done with it. Unfortunately that's probably what happens most of the time.

  5. Anonymous6:04 AM

    Online education is here to stay, and it's a good thing if done right. Young students will need to be monitored and coached...just like their counterparts in the classroom. I actually work this field as an instructional designer and a lot of what I design is for self-paced web based learning. I earned two master degrees online and I can tell you they weren't easy...because they were done correctly and required us to be accountable, participate in online discussions, finish our projects and then present them our classmates virtually. As a working mom I wouldn't have been able to go to campus classes. Online education is still a young and developing field, many mistakes are being made but there are a lot of us good guys out there working to bring up the quality.

    1. I did my second masters online because there were only two universities in California that offered a credential program for librarians and neither were within a 100 mile drive. No way I could attend classes at night while working during the day.

      San Jose State University's Department of Library and Information Science located in Fullerton has an extremely strong online program. They had developed a very rigorous online program to allow students that weren't local to earn an MLIS.

      But not all programs are as rigorous because, like home schooling, there aren't any regulations and at the time there were few successful models.

  6. Anonymous3:32 PM

    You can't hand a machine to someone, then laugh when they refuse to take "You hit start" as a legitimate question to "How do I shut down my computer properly?"
    I refuse to send one of mine to one of these schools. I want them to learn the old fashioned way, with books, other students, real educators I can call for progress reports etc etc.

  7. Having completed a second master's degree through mostly online work I have to remind all that this study is for K-12.

    Online isn't for everyone. Even some adults can't handle it. There are also varying degrees of how effectively online programs are set up.

    In my program it was a hybrid in that for most of the classes we met in a classroom at least once, sometimes several times a semester. There were online mandatory "chats" every week at a specified day and time, there were mandatory discussions on forums and assignments had to be downloaded, completed and turned in on a timeline. It required a lot of discipline. Online courses when constructed well can be just as good if not better than some traditional classes in that students have an opportunity to attend when physical attendance would be prohibitive and can plan their assignments around their work schedules.

    I wouldn't recommend online courses for K-12. 9-12 maybe. But a hybrid course would be better with perhaps class meetings once a week and then the remainder of the time online. This might be even better in forcing students to organize their time and meet deadlines for coursework. A valuable skill for certain professions.

    But I wouldn't recommend online for K-8 and in fact would be hesitant about some computers in K-5. I've seen them abused, reduced to electronic drill and kill or little more than computer games with no mastery of concepts or retention.

  8. My ten year online class reunion is rapidly approaching. Back then I was using a desktop. Now I am wireless and using a laptop. I'm not sure if I can have a reunion.


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