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Tracking the Rise of Online Charter Schools Through the Ed Week Archives

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By Assistant Librarian Maya Riser-Kositsky and Benjamin Herold. This story originally appeared on the Digital Education blog. 

Education Week recently published a major investigative report on full-time online charter schools, a niche sector of K-12 schooling that has come under significant scrutiny for poor performance and widespread mismanagement.

Included in Rewarding Failure is an interactive map detailing dozens of media reports about cyber charters in 22 states. From California to Ohio to Tennessee to Maine, local and state news outlets have been documenting problems in the sector for well over a decade.

We've been covering the full-time online charters for just as long. Here, Education Week's Research Library pulls together 10 of our most significant stories on the sector.

1. Cyber Schools: Virtual Innovation? (Learning Matters)
February 2012

In this piece for the PBS NewsHour, Learning Matters visits the PA Cyber School in Pennsylvania to learn more about the pros and cons of going to school completely online.


2. Cyber Schools Carving Out Charter Niche
October 2001

One of our earliest stories on cyber charters, this 2001 pieces raises a red flag that is still relevant today: "Rules for brick-and-mortar schools may not work in cyberspace."


3. Cyber Charters Have 'Overwhelming Negative Impact,' CREDO Study Finds
October 2015

In the definitive study to date of cyber charters' academic performance, researchers from Stanford University found that students at the schools made dramatically less progress than their counterparts at regular schools.


4. Counseling Is a Virtual Experience for Students at Online Schools
November 2013

This story examined the challenge of providing comprehensive school counseling to students in full-time cyber schools.


5. S.C. Charters Agree to Accessibility Changes After Federal Investigation
March 2014

Internet-based schools in the state entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights to ensure their programs were accessible for students with disabilities.


6. North Carolina Approves State's First Virtual Charter Schools
February 2015

California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are home to the largest cyber charters in the country. But despite big problems in those states, other states have continued to approve the creation and expansion of such schools.


7. Inside the Life of a Cyber School Student (Learning Matters)
February 2012

In this companion piece to the PBS NewsHour segment, Learning Matters profiles two cyber school students with very different experiences. 


8. Cyber-Charter Applicants Face Tougher Times in Pa.
February 2014

Concerns around governance and whether cybers' nonprofit boards are truly independent from the for-profit companies they contract with was the focus of this piece.


9a. Online Charter Schools: Fast Growth But Spotty Performance in Ohio
August 2016

9b. Ohio Cybers Could Be Forced to Repay More than $80M After Attendance Audits
October 2016

Researchers and regulators have been taking a hard look at Ohio's cyber charter sector.


10. Rewarding Failure: An Education Week Investigation of the Cyber Charter Industry
November 2016

Amid growing evidence that the nation's cyber charter schools are plagued by serious academic and management problems, Education Week conducted a months-long investigation that uncovered exclusive data on how rarely students use the learning software at Colorado's largest cyber and details of the sophisticated lobbying operation that has kept the sector growing.


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