Virtual Schools in the US 2015

Virtual education continues to be a focal point for policymakers interested in expanding education choices and improving the efficiency of public education. In particular, full-time virtual schools, also known as online schools or cyber schools, have attracted a great deal of attention. Proponents argue that online curriculum can be tailored to individual students and that it has the potential to promote greater student achievement than can be realized in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Further, lower costs—primarily for instructional personnel and facilities—make virtual schools financially appealing. Assumptions about the cost-effectiveness of virtual schools coupled with policies that expand school choice and provide market incentives attractive to for-profit companies have fueled a fast-growing virtual school expansion in the U.S.

This report is the third of a series of annual reports by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) on virtual education in the U.S. The NEPC reports contribute to the existing evidence and discourse on virtual education by providing an objective analysis of the evolution and performance of full-time, publicly funded K-12 virtual schools. Specifically, the NEPC reports: analyze the universe of proposed state bills related to virtual education; assess the research evidence that bears on K-12 virtual teaching and learning; describe the policy issues raised by available evidence; analyze the growth and performance of full-time virtual schools; and, offer recommendations for future research.