Virtual public schools, which allow students to take all their classes online, have exploded in popularity across the United States, offering what supporters view as innovative and affordable alternatives to the conventional classroom.
Now a backlash is building among public officials and educators who question whether the cyber-schools are truly making the grade. In Maine, New Jersey and North Carolina, officials have refused to allow new cyber-schools to open this year, citing concerns about poor academic performance, high rates of student turnover and funding models that appear to put private-sector profits ahead of student achievement.
In Pennsylvania, the auditor general has issued a scathing report calling for revamping a funding formula that he said overpays online schools by at least $105 million a year. In Tennessee, the commissioner of education called test scores at the new Tennessee Virtual Academy "unacceptable."