|[October 04, 2012]
Raise Your Hand Texas Releases "Full Time Virtual Schools in Texas: Good for Kids or Merely Good for Profit?"
AUSTIN, Texas --(Business Wire)--
Today, Raise Your Hand Texas, a non-profit education advocacy
organization working to strengthen schools on behalf of Texas students
and families, released a policy paper entitled, "Full-Time Virtual
Schools in Texas: Good for Kids or Merely Good for Profit "
Few citizens are aware of the rapid growth of full-time virtual schools
in Texas, or perhaps are not even aware that such schools exist. Yet
students around the state from as young as 3rd grade through
high school receive all of their course content online, never setting
foot in a brick-and-mortar school. Private, for-profit providers deliver
these courses under contract with school districts and charter schools
using taxpayer funds.
The policy paper analyzes available research and data on full-time
virtual schools in Texas, and makes policy recommendations to strengthen
governance, accountability and financial transparency for this rapidly
growing segment of Texas education.
"We feel that the legislature needs to hit the pause button on the
growth of full-time virtual schools in Texas," says Raise Your Hand
Texas CEO Dr. David Anthony. "We need to close loopholes that allow
poor-performing schools to evade consequences by moving to another
"host" district or charter, and ensure that appropriate accountability,
oversight and fiscal transparency are in place for the benefit of
students and taxpayers."
Rapid Growth, Poor Performance
While enrollment in full-time virtual schools in Texas represents a
relatively small number of students overall, the rate of growth has been
rapid with enrollment expanding from 171 students in 2006-2007 to 6,209
students in 2011-2012.
Consistent with national studies, Raise Your Hand Texas' review of
available reserch and data relating to full-time virtual schools in
Texas has found that:
Full-time virtual education has expanded rapidly in Texas, despite
weak performance in student achievement and under the state
Only one full-time virtual school has maintained even an Academically
Acceptable ranking for two consecutive years (and it was later
rated Academically Unacceptable).
No full-time virtual school has ever achieved a rating of Exemplary
There is little or no transparency regarding contracts by private,
for-profit providers with host districts or charters despite the use
of taxpayer dollars, nor is there available public data on the cost of
virtual education despite claims of significant cost efficiencies.
Recommendations to Strengthen Oversight, Close Loopholes
Based on its review of the available research and data, the policy paper
released today by Raise Your Hand Texas contains a number of
recommendations regarding policies that should be maintained or
strengthened to ensure accountability and transparency for full-time
virtual education before further expansion should be considered.
Key recommendations include:
Administrative and fiscal control of all virtual classes and schools
should remain with the Texas Virtual Schools Network (TxVSN) at the
Texas Education Agency (TEA).
Continue to require that virtual schools comply with the same
reporting and accountability requirements as traditional public
schools, that only public school students may enroll, and that funding
be based on successful course completion.
Close the loophole that allows for-profit private providers to evade
consequences by moving to another "host" district or charter school
one step ahead of the Commissioner of Education.
Require fiscal transparency for virtual schools, including requiring
that contracts between private providers of virtual education and host
districts or charters be public information that is available online.
Prevent further expansion of full-time virtual schools until an
objective evaluation of the student performance and cost-effectiveness
of full-time virtual schools is performed.
A copy of the policy paper, including a full list of policy
recommendations, is available for download at: www.raiseyourhandtexas.org/images/virtual-schools.pdf.
About Raise Your Hand Texas
Raise Your Hand Texas is a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots
advocacy organization made up of community and business leaders,
educators and taxpayers from around the state. Our mission is to
advocate for students as we strive to improve Texas public schools, by
investing in educational leaders and engaging the public to influence
public policy that strengthens our schools and the economy of our state.
Follow us on Twitter: @RYHTexas
Connect with us on Facebook (News - Alert): facebook.com/RaiseYourHandTexas
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