Cyber Charters Continue to Struggle: A State-by-State Look at Reports of Trouble

By Arianna Prothero — December 14, 2017 1 min read
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From California to Ohio to Nevada, cyber charter schools often struggle mightily to graduate students and they frequently clash with state regulators over their academic performance and financial management. Nevertheless, the niche sector of K-12 schooling continues to expand across states even in the face of such poor results.

As part of an Education Week investigation published a year ago, we plotted dozens of local media reports and state audits on an interactive map. Now, we’ve updated the map through 2017, which you can find here:

Map: Cyber Charters Have a Powerful New Champion in DeVos, But Their Struggles Continue.

Cyber Charters Have a Champion in DeVos

Although cyber charter schools have long struggled with poor academic performance and financial mismanagement, they now have a high-profile ally in the Trump administration: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The education secretary has a long track record on favoring a range of school choice, incuding online schools operated by for-profit companies. She was also an early invester in K12 Inc., the country’s largest virtual school operator.

Online schools make frequent appearances in DeVos’ speeches, where she touts them as a means of providing school choice to students with a range of different needs—whether they have disabilities, demanding athletic schedules, or live in rural areas.

Most recently, in a speech in Nashville at the Foundation for Excellence in Education National Summit, DeVos highlighted a family in which all three children graduated from a virtual school. One son had ADHD and Dyslexia, one son had Tourette’s syndrome, and the daughter wanted to train more intensively as a ballet dancer.

“Then they found a virtual school that gave them the opportunity to learn and interact socially at their own pace, but also afforded them the chance to participate in athletics locally,” DeVos said. “They found the option that worked for their needs.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.