DECEMBER 14, 2015 – FORT MYERS, FLA. – Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) School of Education Dean, Dr. Lawrence Miller, and The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, along with Mathematica Policy Research and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), recently coauthored the National Study of Online Charter Schools. The study was funded by the Walton Family Foundation.
The study focused on the operations of online charter schools, their policies, and their impact on student achievement. They included data from 158 online schools across 17 states and the District of Columbia.
Charter schools are public schools that operate under a performance agreement with an authorizer such as a state college or university. They have regulations they must comply with and are governed by their own board rather than a school districts’ board. As dean of FSW’s School of Education, Dr. Miller oversees two charter schools: FSW’s Collegiate High Schools in Lee and Charlotte counties.
Dr. Miller’s and CRPE’s research focused on current policies for the schools. They found that online charter schools exist in a number of different policy environments due to variation in state laws.
“Online charter schools now serve 200,000 students nationwide,” said Dr. Miller. “However, they are governed by policies that were designed for brick and mortar schools. They do not guide the unique opportunities and challenges of online charter schools.”
One policy change Dr. Miller and CRPE recommended in the study is funding. Many states fund charter schools based on attendance.
“Student mobility increases in the online charter sector,” Dr. Miller said. “It is easier to enroll, dropout, and switch schools, so the single-count, attendance-based approach to funding no longer works.”
Other policy challenges that they found online charter schools face are open admission requirements that prevent schools from screening students who are most likely to be successful in an online school, and authorizing and accountability provisions that are not well suited to regulating online schools.
They hope more states will experiment with and study the impact of new funding policies similar to that of New Hampshire’s online charter school, which provides funding based on completion of competencies rather than seat time. Currently, Florida is one of four states experimenting with completion-based funding systems.
Florida SouthWestern State College is Southwest Florida’s largest and one of the most affordable institutions of higher education. Annually serving nearly 22,000 students globally, FSW offers a variety of nationally-ranked, career-focused academic programs with two- and four-year degrees, and professional certifications. Students are also active in clubs and programs catered to their interests. FSW will debut its intercollegiate athletics program in January 2016. Visit www.FSW.edu for more information.