Keeping Pace in Review: Multi-district Fully Online Schools - Fewer States, More Students

Keeping Pace 2013 is released, and is available for download at Over the coming weeks we’re going to post highlights of the report here in our blog. Multi-district fully online schools served an estimated 310,000 students in 30 states in SY 2012 13. For the first time, Keeping Pace separates those states that support fully online schools with and without restrictions. In this first blog post we will look at enrollment growth in fully online schools; later this week we will examine the restrictions that are constraining growth in some states.

Multi-district fully online schools are the main education providers for their students, who do not need to go to a physical school to access any aspect of their education (although they may do so). Keeping Pace focuses on fully online schools that operate across multiple school districts and often draw students from an entire state. While often these schools are charter schools, that is changing as more districts make non-charter options available to their students.

In SY 2012-13, new fully online, statewide schools opened in Iowa and New Mexico. However, in Virginia, the only previously fully online statewide school is primarily serving students in two counties as of SY 2013- 14, and Keeping Pace reclassified Hawaii’s school as fully blended as opposed to fully online. As a result, the total number of states that support statewide fully online schools is down to 29 in SY 2013-14. For the first time in many years, no new states allowed statewide fully online schools this school year, although several states continue to discuss opening fully online schools but have not yet done so, including Maine and New Jersey.

Overall enrollment in the states that allow these schools continues to increase. Keeping Pace estimates 310,000 students enrolled in multi-district fully online schools in SY 2012-13, an increase of 13% over last year’s count and equivalent to almost 1% of all students in all states that allow these schools.

Fourteen states saw enrollment increases of more than 18%, including five states that saw enrollment increases over 50%. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana have all seen various caps lifted recently, allowing for easier student access and significant increases in student enrollment.

On the other end of the spectrum, the three states that saw their enrollment numbers decrease have restrictions in place that make it challenging for students to enroll in existing schools. We will dig into the restrictions that are constraining growth in online schools on Wednesday.

The multi-district fully online section can be found on pp. 21-25 of Keeping Pace 2013, and includes a map of states with multi-district fully online schools (which is also available for download at, and a table with more details about those states.