A Rocky Mountain low

kids rolling in money photo

Keep the money with the kid; it's just good sense
(Photo by Carissa Rogerse)

A series of scathing articles soiled the
pristine robes of digital learning this week, revealing stunningly high
turnover, lamentable academic performance, and negligent oversight among
Colorado’s largest online schools. The investigation by Education News Colorado
and the I-News Network
finds, among other things, that more than half of the Centennial State’s online
students left their virtual schools in favor of local brick-and-mortars during the
2008-09 school year. Yet, though they left mid-year, the per-pupil funding
attached to them stayed with their virtual educators. The Centennial State’s
virtual schools did not commit malfeasance: They followed the letter of the
law. In Colorado, school funding is based on a single “count” day, meaning that
schools receive a set number of funds based on enrollment numbers in October,
irrespective of how many students still attend that school in June. It’s no big
surprise that virtual schools would have high attrition rates—students and
families are trying out a very different model of education, after all—which
makes it even more inexcusable for states to maintain funding systems that
don’t take twenty-first-century realities into account. As digital-learning proponents, we welcome exposés
of this ilk—if only to showcase how antiquated our current system is, and how
it needs to change fast if we’re going to allow innovation to thrive and

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on CO's virtual schools from the Education Gadfly Show podcast.


Half of Online Students Leave: Funding Stays
,” by Burt Hubbard and Nancy
Mitchell, Education News Colorado,
October 2, 2011.

Online Learning Reports Reveal Growth, Concerns
,” by Bill Tucker, Education Next, October 3, 2011.