Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study: Virtual Schools Lack Diversity

Virtual schools are less diverse than traditional public schools, new research reveals. The online schools tend to have few Latino, limited English proficient, black and poor students.

The 2012-13 ”census” by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) identified 338 full-time virtual schools in the country that enrolled 243,000 students. The Colorado-based center published the study entitled, “Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy and Research Evidence.”

Virtual schools also tend to perform lower on adequate yearly progress measures, according to the report. Most students attend schools run by private education management companies, while still others are charters or run by school districts.

According to the study, in 2010-11 about three-quarters of virtual school students were white compared with the national average of 54 percent. Only about 11 percent of virtual school students were Latino, compared with about 24 percent of all public school students.

The study found the data on Hispanics particularly startling given that the virtual schools are very popular in heavily Hispanic states such as Arizona, California and Florida.

“It appears that virtual schools are less attractive to Hispanics, or perhaps that virtual schools are doing less outreach or marketing to this population,” the report said. “This may also be due to evidence that suggests lower success rates for minority populations in online schooling.”

Even more startling, that data showed that only 0.1 percent of virtual school students were English Language Learners, compared with about 10 percent of all students.

“One possible explanation could be that the packaged curriculum is only available in English; another possible explanation might be that instructors have insufficient time to support these students,” the report said.