Wisconsin Audits Virtual Schools

Earlier this year the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau virtual schools in the state. The full, 116 page report is in PDF, but you can read a much shorter set of highlights. What follows below is an even shorter list.

History of enrollment

  • Virtual schools started operating during the 2002-03 school year, with 4 schools operated by 3 school districts enrolling 265 students.
  • During the 2007-08 school year, 15 virtual charter schools enrolled 2,951 students, most of high-school age.
  • Over 90 percent of students participate in open enrollment–that is, their virtual school experience is provided by a district other than the one to which they are assigned by their residence.

Where’s the money?

  • Under state law, a school district must pay the district that operates the virtual school $6,007 per full-time student. About half–8 of 15–of the virtual charter schools spent less than that.
  • Most of the revenue received by virtual schools ($14.2 million out of $18 million) came from state aid payments.

Teachers

All 161 teachers employed by a virtual school program have licenses that are required by state law. Teachers in one district do not meet a new requirement concerning subject-matter licensing.

Academic performance

  • Compared with students in traditional schools, students in virtual programs scored higher on reading but lower in math on state assessments.
  • However, “only a small number of pupils were continuously enrolled in virtual charter schools for the past several years,” suggesting that comparisons may not yet be valid.

Coming later, perhaps: Some tidbits from the full report.

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