Keeping Pace 2013 preview: State-Supported Supplemental Online Course Options

We are getting close to finishing our counts and calculations that will be released in Keeping Pace 2013, and in the coming weeks we will post some of the key findings. One of the important discussions this year—which we have touched on in previous blog posts—is around the ways in which some states are moving to provide supplemental online courses via course choice programs  along with, or instead of, state virtual schools.

Historically, the focus of  state-supported options for supplemental online courses has been on state virtual schools, which operated in as many as 31 states at their peak. In the last two years, there has been an increasing number of states launching statewide “course choice” programs that are intended to provide a similar service, but typically with multiple providers. Still, the number of course enrollments in state virtual schools dwarfs the number in course choice programs at this point.

The 27 state virtual schools served a total of 743,222 course enrollments in SY 2012-13, and this could still change. The largest of these continues to be Florida Virtual School, which served 410,962 enrollments in SY 2012-13.

Primarily as a result of the funding methods in each state, state virtual schools continue to bifurcate into two different groups: those that are large and growing, and those that are small and either shrinking or, at most, maintaining their enrollment numbers. State virtual schools in Alabama, Georgia, Montana, Vermont, and Virginia grew by at least 17% in SY 2012-13, whereas in Colorado and Iowa the state virtual schools shrank by at least 13%. For many others, enrollment totals stayed within about 3% of the prior year. The largest 10 state virtual schools served 92% of the total enrollments served by state virtual schools in SY 2012-13; FLVS served about 55% of the enrollments served by all state virtual schools. The next largest state virtual schools are North Carolina Virtual Public School (94,716 course enrollments in SY 2012-13) and Alabama ACCESS  (51,910 course enrollments in SY 2012-13).

We will provide additional information about state virtual schools, fully online schools, blended schools, and district programs in upcoming blog posts—and of course in the report, to be released at the iNACOL Symposium in October.