Yesterday, we examined the 2010-11 enrollment numbers for Ohio’s e-schools and uncovered some curious trends. While the e-school sector as a whole experienced its largest post-moratorium increase, that growth was driven by only four statewide schools. Today, we revisit performance and student mobility and their relationship to e-school enrollment.
Ohio performance indicators for 2010-11 should cause some heartburn for E-school operators. Based on these indicators, the vast majority of Ohio’s e-schools are mediocre or poor academic performers. Only two of the 20 rated e-schools were considered “effective” in 2010-11, while 11 resided in the bottom two categories. The ratings of nine schools declined between 2009-10 and 2010-11, though the Fordham Institute notes that all E-schools made expected growth in 2010-11 as measured by their state value added scores. As with last year, there also appears to be no well-defined relationship between the size of a school and its performance.
But with e-schools, student mobility makes interpreting performance ratings tricky. In this year as in last, a large proportion – about a third – of students were enrolled for less than a year. Whether that figure is too high is difficult to say. The flexibility of e-schools makes them attractive to a wide spectrum of students with different needs and expectations. To some families, e-schools may represent a full-time alternative to traditional schools, while other students use e-schools as a supplement or temporary substitute for a brick-and-mortar school, never intending to stay for an extended period of time.
The choices families make about where to send their children to school are tied up in more than just an academic reputation. As options such as virtual schooling increase, these decisions not only become harder to parse, but measuring school accountability also becomes more of a challenge, requiring more finely tailored systems.
Student mobility also varies within and between e-school types. Across all types, roughly seven percent of all e-school students had been enrolled for more than three years – just about enough to fill two Cleveland high schools – while the vast majority of students were enrolled for between one and three years. But as the chart below shows, statewide schools had a higher proportion of students enrolling for longer periods of time, while local and regional schools registered greater percentages of short-term students.
Only four schools – three statewide and one regional – reported long-term students near or above 10 percent of enrollment. Of these, OHDELA (The Ohio Distance and Learning Academy) takes the cake. Just about one out of every five of its students has been enrolled for more than three years. But OHDELA has generally experienced falling enrollment and poor academic performance since the moratorium was instated. Considering the role of e-schools in increasing choices for families, OHDELA raises important questions about the efficacy of Ohio’s e-school market and the problem of asymmetric information. Tomorrow, we’ll finish up our check-in on Ohio e-schools with a few thoughts on OHDELA and some broader conclusions.
Written by Education Sector policy intern Scott Baumgartner.