, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 57–62 | Cite as

Can virtual schools thrive in the real world?

  • Yinying WangEmail author
  • Janet R. Decker


Despite the relatively large number of students enrolled in Ohio’s virtual schools, it is unclear how virtual schools compare to their traditional school counterparts on measures of student achievement. To provide some insight, we compared the school performance from 2007-2011 at Ohio’s virtual and traditional schools. The results suggest that Ohio’s virtual schools have grown rapidly, but also have experienced much lower levels of school performance than traditional schools. In light of these findings, we discuss factors that may be contributing to the large number of low-performing virtual schools in Ohio. Considering the lack of sufficient evidence that Ohio’s virtual schools are effective, we conclude that the relentless pursuit to expand virtual schools is problematic.


virtual schools school performance student achievement 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aud, S., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Kristapovich, P., Rathbun, A., Wang, X., and Zhang, J. (2013). The Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013-037). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC. Retrieved from
  2. Barbour, M. K. (2013). The landscape of K-12 online learning: Examining what is known. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of distance education (3rd ed.) (pp. 574-593). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Barbour, M., K. & Reeves, T. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 52(2), 402-416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bathon, J. (2011). Model legislation related to online learning opportunities for students in public elementary and secondary education schools. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from
  5. Carnahan, C., & Fulton, L. (2013). Virtual forgotten: Special education students in cyber schools. TechTrends, 57(4), 46-52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carr-Chellman, A. A., & Marsh, M. (2009). Pennsylvania cyber school funding: Follow the money. TechTrends, 53(4), 49-55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. (n.d). Who we are. Retrieved from
  8. Findlay Digital Academy. (n.d.) What is FDA. Retrieved from
  9. Glass, G. V., & Welner, K. G. (2011). Online K-12 schooling in the U.S.: Uncertain private ventures in need of public regulation. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from
  10. Hubbard, B., & Mitchell, N. (2011). Online K-12 schools failing students but keeping tax dollars. I-News Network. Retrieved from
  11. Miron, G., Huerta, L., Cuban, L., Horvitz, B., Gulosino, C., Rice, J. K., & Shafer, S. R. (2013). Virtual schools in the U.S. 2013: Politics, performance, policy, and research evidence. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from
  12. National Forum on Education Statistics. (2006). Forum guide to elementary/secondary virtual education (NFES2006-803). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.Google Scholar
  13. O’Donnell, P., & Bloom, M. (2012, September 30). How online education is changing school in Ohio. State Impact NPR. Retrieved from
  14. Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. (2009). E-schools show superior Results: Analysis of state value-added data confirms e-schools students’ progress. Retrieved from
  15. Ohio Department of Education. (2012). Opening 5 new e-schools. Retrieved from
  16. Ohio Report Cards. (2013). 2010-2012 Guide to understanding Ohio’s accountability system. Retrieved from
  17. Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) § 3314.Google Scholar
  18. Performance Index. (2013). Ohio Department of Education: Report Card. Retrieved from
  19. Rhim, L., & Kowal, J. (2008). Demystifying special education in virtual charter schools. Alexandra, VA: Special Education Technical Assistance for Charter Schools Project.Google Scholar
  20. Ryman, A., & Kossan, P. (2011). The race to online: Arizona experiments with virtual K-12 schools. Will they work for your child? Arizona Republic. Retrieved from
  21. Wang, Y., & Decker, J. R. (in press). Examining digital inequities in Ohio’s K-12 virtual schools: Implications for educational leaders and policymakers. International Journal of Education Reform. Google Scholar
  22. Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., Rapp, C. (2012). Keeping pace with K-12 online & blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations