I have posted repeatedly here about the dismal academic results of virtual charter schools. Students have high attrition rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates.

This finding has been reported again and again. In 2015, CREDO at Stanford said that students lose almost a year of learning in math when they attend virtual charter schools. In many states, the virtual charters are the state’s lowest performing schools. Pennsylvania has many virtual charter schools, and none of them has ever met state benchmarks in reading and math.

The latest study comes from Indiana, as reported by Stephanie Wang in Chalkbeat.

Faced with low academic results at online schools across the country, supporters often defend virtual education because it provides a haven for struggling students.

But a new study in Indiana found that students fell further behind after transferring to virtual charter schools. The findings suggest that online schools post low outcomes not simply because the students they serve face challenges, but because of problems with how online learning works — and the shortfalls of not having a physical classroom.

The new research, to be published in the journal Educational Researcher, is in line with other studies that have shown that students who transfer to virtual charter schools saw significant drops in their math and reading scores.

“Parents need to know that as they’re making these choices,” said Mark Berends, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Research on Educational Opportunity.

Berends, along with three other researchers, tracked seven years of recent test scores to look at how Hoosier students in grades 3-8 performed before and after they transferred to virtual charter schools. The study compares students at virtual charters to peers in brick-and-mortar classrooms with similar profiles at the same academic level.

The declines equate to a student who was performing at an average level (50th percentile) sinking to the 35th percentile in math and the 40th percentile in reading, Berends said.

It didn’t make much of a difference which virtual charter school they attended or which teachers they had, according to the study. And the negative effects weren’t just due to the disruption of switching schools — unlike students who transferred to brick-and-mortar charter schools, students’ scores didn’t bounce back after the transition.

Even if students had been struggling before changing to an online setting, researchers concluded that they would have fared far better had they stayed at a traditional public school.

Researchers couldn’t exactly pin down why those declines happen. Their theory is that the problem could lie in the very nature of a virtual environment being “inherently limiting” when it comes to how teachers interact with students and how many more students are in each class. It can be hard to track how long students really spend at their computers and to make sure students keep up with their schoolwork.

Do you think any state will close down failing virtual charters? Back when Kevin Huffman was state superintendent in Tennessee, he tried to close down the state’s virtual charter, the lowest performing school in the state. He couldn’t do it. He wrote an article called “An Ed Commissioner’s Confession: How I Tried (and Failed) to Close the Worst School in Tennessee.”

At some point, you have to wonder whether state legislatures simply don’t care about the quality of education in their state.