A new policy brief from the National Education Policy Center provides information on the number and types of virtual and blended schools in the United States, the characteristics of their students, their performance and practices, and state policies related to virtual schools.
As of the 2017-18 school year, 501 full-time virtual schools enrolled almost 300,000 students and 300 blended schools enrolled just over 132,000. Enrollments in both types of schools rose over the previous school years. Not quite half of virtual schools were charters, but virtual charter schools tended to enroll more students (79.1% of virtual school enrollment). Charters constituted 62% of blended schools, and these tended to enroll more students than district charters.
Who attends virtual and blended schools? The student bodies in these schools tended to have fewer minority and low-income students and English language learners than are enrolled in public schools overall. Virtual schools also tended to have more female students, while blended schools were (like the rest of the student population) more evenly split between male and female students.
Available performance data were limited, with only 21 of 39 states in the study providing overall performance ratings for virtual schools. And in states that did provide ratings, at least half of the virtual and blended schools were not assigned ratings. Among those schools with ratings, only 48.5% of virtual schools and 44.6% of blended schools received acceptable scores. District schools were more likely to receive acceptable scores than charter schools, and independent schools tended to perform better than those run by education management organizations (EMOs). Graduation rates were also considerably lower than the national average.
Read the complete report for more detailed data and policy recommendations.
Source: Molnar, A., Miron, G., Elgeberi, N., Barbour, M.K., Heurta, L., Shafer, S.R., & Rice, J.K. (2019, May 28). Virtual schools in the U.S. 2019. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center.