Online k-12 schooling in the U.S.: uncertain private ventures in need of public regulation

Fair trading regulation Schools North America

Over just the past decade, online learning at the K-12 level has grown from a novelty to a movement. Often using the authority and mechanism of state charters, and in league with home schoolers and other allies, private companies and some state entities are now providing full-time online schooling to a rapidly increasing number of students in the U.S.
Little or no research is yet available on the outcomes of such full-time virtual schooling. Partial or ―blended‖ approaches to virtual education, however, have existed for some time and have been studied fairly extensively. These approaches provide virtual courses in certain areas (math, English, and social studies, for example), and research has shown the virtual courses to produce test scores comparable to those from conventional, face-to-face courses.
While such research is useful, it tells us little about scaling up from isolated courses to fulltime virtual schooling. Some areas of the curriculum (the arts, for example) are likely beyond the successful reach of these new arrangements. And research thus far has offered little information about outcomes beyond scores on written tests. Moreover, the rapid growth of virtual schooling raises several immediate, critical questions for legislators regarding matters such as cost, funding, and quality.

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