Most virtual charters schools are educational frauds. But they are very profitable.The corporation provides a computer, some printed materials, and access to an underpaid, overburdened teacher who is monitoring many screens. In return, the online corporation is paid full state tuition, while providing none of the staff, programs, or resources of a regular school.

New studies find that the academic performance of students schooled online is poor. The worst online schools are in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana, in both reading and math. About 8% of charter students are enrolled in cyber charters.

Benjamin Herrold writes in Education Week:

“Students who take classes over the Internet through online charter schools make dramatically less academic progress than their counterparts in traditional schools, according to a sweeping new series of reports released today.

The National Study of Online Charter Schools represents the first comprehensive national look at the roughly 200 schools in the publicly funded, independently managed cyber-charter sector. Such schools enroll about 200,000 full-time students across 26 states.

Reports jointly released by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, the Center on Reinventing Public Education, and Mathematica Policy Research found that:

More than two-thirds of online charter schools had weaker overall academic growth than similar brick-and-mortar schools. In math, 88 percent of online charters had weaker academic growth than their comparison schools.

On average, online charter students achieved each year the equivalent of 180 fewer days of learning in math and 72 fewer days of learning in reading than similar students in district-run brick-and-mortar schools.

As a group, online charters are characterized by high student-to-teacher ratios, low student engagement, and high student mobility.

Online charters frequently offer limited opportunities for live contact with teachers and a relative paucity of supports for families, despite high expectations for parental involvement.

From funding to enrollment to oversight, states are failing to keep up with the unique policy challenges that online charters present.”