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An in-depth look by I-News - a Colorado-based nonprofit investigative news collaborative, Education News Colorado, and KUNC at the state’s online K-12 schools. Topics include: online K-12 school performance, state- and district-level oversight, and for-profit Education Management Organizations, such as K12 Inc.

Report Calls for More Regulation of Virtual K-12 Schools

Parents learn the ins and outs of the virtual education system at a Colorado Virtual Academy training.
Grace Hood
Parents learn the ins and outs of the virtual education system at a Colorado Virtual Academy training.

A new study by the Boulder-based National Education Policy Center is raising more questions about the quality and oversight of online K-12 schools across the country.

The report, Online K-12 Schooling in the U.S.: Uncertain Private Ventures in Need of Public Regulation, looks at everything from the quality of a full-time online education to the actual price of virtual K-12 instruction.

Gene Glass,a senior researcher at the University of Colorado, says educators are also raising questions about student cheating in online courses.

“There are just too many abuses out there of kids getting credit for courses that they virtually never take,” he says.

Proponents of online education cite the flexibility and the wide variety of coursework available online. The report suggests how states can curb student cheating and evaluate actual costs of virtual schooling. The recommendations include:

·         Financial audits of cyber schools: Determining actual per-student expenses so states can determine appropriate reimbursement.

·         Authentication of student work: Online instructors have no way to verify whether work submitted via computer was actually performed by the enrolled student.Organizations should administer in-person exams, as is currently the practice at a few virtual schools.

·         Accreditation: To avoid abuses that have been found in other proprietary schools – such as truck driving and cosmetology academies – traditional high school accrediting agencies and state and federal departments of education should work together to develop a rigorous approach to accreditation of both part-time and full-time cyber schools.

The study comes after reports by KUNC radio and other media outlets about poor student performance and lack of online school oversight in Colorado.


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