State Planning Investigation Into Online Virtual Schools

Wisconsin’s education agency is planning an in-depth review of the state’s online virtual schools. A state audit from two-and-a-half years ago recommended the review – but it’s been on the back burner until now. Earlier this year, Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers uncovered major achievement gaps between online students and their counterparts in brick-and-mortar schools. Gannett said virtual school students are five times more likely to repeat their grade-levels – and they had lower test results last year in every subject but reading. Patrick Gasper of the Department of Public Instruction says the new review is the result of the increasing number of school districts creating virtual schools – and growing numbers of questions about their operations. Wisconsin has 28 virtual schools this year, three more than a year ago. And their enrollments grew by a whopping 38-percent, to almost 68-hundred youngsters statewide. Gasper says the D-P-I will contact as many people as possible who are connected with virtual schools – and they hope to create guidance materials aimed at helping families get “high-quality educational opportunities” if they choose to use online schools. Gasper hopes to complete the review by next spring