Giving Compass' Take:

• A new report from Public Impact indicates that online charter schools can be an effective alternative to traditional schools, but high-quality teachers and specific design are necessary. 

• The author notes that some students who are highly motivated thrive in an online environment. How can educators foster encouraging and stimulating spaces online for students to succeed? 

• Despite increasing enrollment, there are downsides of virtual charter schools. 

Students in online charter schools have generally performed less well than their peers in brick-and-mortar classrooms, but this doesn’t have to be the case. With specific strategies, online schools can be a viable alternative to traditional public education, according to a new report from Public Impact.

Strong teachers that make personal connections with students, putting students’ needs at the center of the program and setting high expectations for both students and families are among the elements of strong virtual charters, according to the report, which features the Idaho Distance Education Academy (I-DEA) and the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School in New Hampshire as models.

Successful online schools use the same systems that make traditional schools successful, yet they are able to offer personalized learning. Technology is at the core of these programs so online schools must take full advantage of all that it has to offer, the authors write.

Despite the promise of a fully flexible schedule and learning at a personalized pace, online charter schools are still associated with lower student test scores. In Wisconsin, more than 2,500  students in the state’s virtual charter schools withdrew, were kicked out or quit between 2016-2017. Those that switched back to traditional schools scored significantly lower, especially in math.

There are those students who thrive in the online school environment, however. Successful students are either motivated to excel or are sometimes dealing with anxiety or another mental health issue that prevents them from learning well in a public environment.

Read the full article about online charter schools by Shawna De La Rosa at Education Dive.