Colo. Lawmakers Want More Oversight for Online Schools

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, March 8, 2012

Colorado’s online schools have shown disappointing results.

Online school is helping Michelle Nuss catch up. The 17-year-old is only a freshman in high school, falling behind a few years ago when she and her mother were homeless and living in a hotel.

These days, Nuss studies online up to six days a week and hopes she’ll be a junior by the end of the year.

“I love it,” she said of Connections Academy, her publicly funded online-only school. “They should keep it around and make it accessible for everybody.”

But some Colorado lawmakers want to know if Nuss and other online students are really getting the best education. So far, Colorado’s online schools have shown disappointing results.

A 2010 report by the state Department of Education showed below-average test scores, dropout rates near 50 percent in some cases and, at one school, a student-to-teacher ratio of 317-1.

Still, the state’s online school industry is growing by double digits a year. Enrollment grew by more than 12 percent between 2008 and 2009.

Last year, Colorado spent about $85 million teaching about 14,200 students online. Like brick-and-mortar schools, online schools are funded based on the number of students enrolled on a single “count day,” Oct. 1. Some fear the enrollment procedure gives online schools little incentive to keep pupils enrolled.

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