Full-time online schools

Throughout the year, we will spend time on this blog focusing in on some of the topics covered in Keeping Pace 2010. To begin, let’s take a look at full-time online schools. Additional material about multi-district full-time online schools can be found beginning on page 28 in the report. Full-time online schools are operating in 27 states and Washington DC, and often fall under state rules for charter schools. These schools typically serve students statewide, although in some states there are geographic restrictions. For example, in California, a school may only serve students in its own county and contiguous counties. In Massachusetts, guidelines were passed in July 2010 by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) for innovation schools, including virtual innovation schools. The guidelines include requirements that 25% of a program’s students live in the district operating the school, and no more than 2% of a school’s enrollments may come from any other single district. The first virtual school to open in Massachusetts, Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield, received a waiver from this requirement that allows it to have only 2% of its students in the home district, but it will be interesting to watch what happens in Massachusetts moving forward.

Keeping Pace estimates there are about 200,000 students enrolled in full-time online schools nationwide. The number is growing at about 15 – 20 % annually, with growth in both the number of multi-district full-time online schools, and in the number of students enrolled in these schools.