Enrollment in full-time virtual schools for K-12 students continues to grow, but the online sector is serving smaller percentages of impoverished, limited-English, and special-needs students than brick-and-mortar schools, according to a.
The National Education Policy Center says it identified 338 full-time virtual schools, enrolling 243,000 students, in the 2012-13 academic year. That represents a 22 percent rise in the number of students served over the previous year.
Forty-four percent of the full-time virtual schools studied were operated by private “education management” companies, and those schools account for 72 percent of all students served, the center says. That represents a rise in the share of enrollment in schools managed by private companies since 2011-12, when that figure was 67 percent. K12 Inc., based in Herndon, Va., remains the largest for-profit provider of full-time virtual schools programs, the authors say, serving about 86,000 students in 2011-12.
The NEPC, based in Boulder, Colo., has released numerous reports on charter and virtual schools over the years, and many of its analyses have cast those schools’ growth and development in a critical light. The latest report, the second to focus on virtual schools, was supported with funding provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, a nonprofit whose members include teachers’ unions, according to the organization’s website.
A version of this article appeared in the March 12, 2014 edition of Education Week as Online Schooling