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Study raises questions about on-line charter schools

By Sun Advocate

As the trend grows more and more for on-line education of public school students, some cautionary notes come from a study done by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) based at Stanford University.
The 114 page study, done over a period of five years, shows that students who take classes only on-line from charter schools may show no academic growth in math or reading at all.
“There’s still some possibility that there’s positive learning, but it’s so statistically significantly different from the average, it is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire year,” said Margaret E. Raymond, project director at CREDO.
The study was not about charter schools, but about on-line charter schools. It was pointed out very strongly that the on-line component was much more important in the results of the study than the type of school that is being looked at.
The study said the implications are quite striking.
Current on-line charter programs might be a fit for some students, but the study shows it doesn’t serve the typical student very well.
The study did not look at on-line school options from regular public schools or other sources.
Carbon School District Superintendent Steve Carlsen pointed out that there have been some concerns about any type of pure on-line instruction.
“Taking an on-line class takes some real discipline,” he said. “It takes a lot of maturity to get everything done and do what you are supposed to when enrolling in that type of learning.”
He suggested that problems with on-line learning may well extend to other kinds of schools too. That’s why Carbon District administrators suggest that students use a combination of learning platforms, which he termed blended learning.
A program called K-12 for both elementary and secondary students allows students to take classes in many subjects, particularly those in which a student wants to expand horizons.
“Those can be taken under the direction of the district and any student can come to the Carbon High School library and take those courses,” he said.
Carlsen said he and other administrators are concerned about the learning of students who may not be using a blended type of format. He said that the district has sent letters to those that home school their children that the program is available to everyone.

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