This blog post was co-authored by Padmini Jambulapati and Erin Dillon.
Part VI of a new blog series exploring data from Ohio e-schools. While online learning is still new to the vast majority of K-12 students and schools, Ohio has operated “e-schools,” public charter schools that operate entirely online and which students “attend” on a full-time basis, for a decade. As policy debates around online learning grow, what do we know about these schools–who do they enroll and how well do they perform–and what can we learn from Ohio’s e-school experience?
Last week, we presented maps that showed where Ohio’s e-schools are getting their students, but who are these students? This week we’ll be taking a closer look at the 29,000 students who attend e-schools and how long they stay in those schools. Today we present three charts with demographic information about each of Ohio’s 27 e-schools. We found that there’s a large amount of variation that might be defy what many think the average e-school student looks like in Ohio—and challenges the notion that there is an ‘average’ e-school student in the first place.
(Use the interactive features of the chart to get information about each of Ohio’s 27 e-schools. Roll over each bar to see demographics, enrollment, and other information about each e-school. To see only the schools that are a particular size category (i.e. only “local”), select the color and click on the highlight button in the bottom right hand corner of the dashboard. Unclick the highlight button to return to the original view. To download the full chart and data, click on the ‘download’ link – this requires you to download the free public version of Tableau. To download a spreadsheet of the data in the chart, click on the export icon (tray with an arrow). )
The chart above takes a look at the percent of students with disabilities that are enrolled in Ohio’s e-schools (e-schools not shown are missing data). Online learning provides a unique opportunity for students with disabilities and, with parental support, these students can thrive in the self-paced and individualized learning environment it offers. Compared to Ohio’s average (red bar), most of the statewide e-schools’ special education enrollment (dark blue bars) are within five percent of the state average. The exceptions are the Virtual Community School of Ohio, which enrolls 10% more than the state average, and Ohio Virtual Academy, which enrolls 6 percent less than the state average. Five of the eight local e-schools (light blue) had higher special education enrollment than the state average, with four being more than 8 percent above the state average. Around 45% of Cardington-Local Digital Academy’s 57 students were identified with disability, or about 26 students. While the absolute number is not very high, the percentage is higher than the other e-schools and three times higher than the state’s average. Regional schools’ special education enrollment covers a wide range–from 6 percent to 31 percent at Auglaize County Educational Academy, double the state’s average.
Our second chart (above) shows the percent of minority students enrolled at each e-school. One might expect statewide e-schools, which draw students from across Ohio, to closely match the state demographics. And for the most part, this is the case. Four of the statewide e-schools are within 5 percent of the state average for minority enrollment, though none of the schools exceed the state average. Among the remaining three statewide schools, the Buckeye School for Online Success has the lowest minority percentage at 13 percent—12 percent below the state average.
Unlike the statewide schools, schools with geographic restrictions, regional or local, tend to reflect the populations of the districts they’re drawing from. For example, Akron Digital Academy enrolls 54 percent minority students. Because 88 percent of Akron Digital’s students come from Akron Public Schools and over 59% of Akron Public Schools’ enrollment is non-white, this makes sense. Lorain High School Digital’s enrollment also reflects its host district, the diverse Lorain City Schools, which enroll approximately 30 percent each of African-American, Hispanic and White students.
While some argue that, because of the parent involvement and oversight required, many students of online learning come from families that can afford to have one parent at home, the demographics of Ohio suggest quite the opposite. Of the e-schools that reported “economically disadvantaged” data (above chart), all but three were above Ohio’s state average of 43%, suggesting that Ohio e-schools as a whole attract more economically disadvantaged students than the rest of the state. Statewide e-schools enrolled between 46% and 75% economically disadvantaged students, all higher than the state average. There’s also wide variation among regional and local schools, with schools enrolling anywhere from 21 percent to 87 percent economically disadvantaged students. Much like the minority enrollment, this likely reflects the demographics of the geographic area these schools draw from.
As this data shows, there’s no real ‘average’ e-school student in Ohio. Student demographics vary widely, particularly for the regional and local e-schools that draw from limited geographic areas. Despite this variation, most of Ohio’s e-schools enroll higher percentages of special education and economically disadvantaged students. Considering that these populations are often most at risk of dropping out, Ohio must ensure these schools are providing a quality education to its at-risk students. The continued lack of accountability for performance, particularly for drop-out recovery schools, may very well harm Ohio’s most at-risk students rather than help them.
But accountability assumes that students enroll long enough for a school to influence student outcomes. Tomorrow’s post takes a look at the average amount of time students are enrolled in e-schools and the implications for online learning in Ohio.