Saturday, October 13, 2007

Washington's online schools: failing students?

I wonder if anyone out there has access to the full Washington State Business Journal article that starts thusly:
Washington's two statewide online schools are performing below state averages, according to the latest Washington Assessment of Student Learning results.

In 15 out of 20 grade levels and subjects tested, the online schools had a lower pass rate than schools with regular classrooms.

In some cases, the online pass rate was nearly 20 percentage points below that of traditional schools. In eighth grade science, 26.4 percent of online-school test-takers met standards, compared with 45.6 percent statewide.

Students in online schools also skipped the test at a much higher rate than in the state overall. In the case of online 10th graders, fewer than half took the WASL.
Assuming the stats are correct, we can guess at some potential reasons online students might be lagging, WASL-wise, ranging from least to most cynical.

1. The sample size is too small for meaningful comparison, since so many digital students didn't take the WASL.

2. Online instruction is subpar to classroom instruction, for a plethora of reasons.

3. The students who take online courses are largely a disaffected group shunted or kicked out of regular classrooms. Their WASL failure was already a given.

I hope it's #1, or something like it. Online instruction is only going to grow in popularity--and if the results are poor, students will lose out in the process.

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