Ohio E-Schools: Learning From Their Experience

Originally published as a blog series on The Quick and The Ed

Also from ES | August 16, 2011
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Washington D.C.—While online learning is still new in a vast majority of states, Ohio has operated "e-schools"—public charter schools that operate entirely online and which students "attend" on a full-time basis—for a decade. As policy debates about online learning grow, so do the questions about these schools. Whom do they enroll? How well do they perform?

Earlier this year, three Education Sector analysts, Managing Director Bill Tucker, Senior Policy Analyst Erin Dillon, and Research Assistant Padmini Jambulapati, took an in-depth look at Ohio's e-schools. In a series of blog posts on The Quick & the Ed, they explored data from the e-schools. Now available for the first time as a comprehensive set, these posts specifically examined performance in Ohio's statewide, regional, and local e-schools. They looked at whether size determined e-school performance and what type of students are enrolling in Ohio's e-schools.

Among their key findings: 

  • Online learning is growing in popularity. In Ohio, despite a moratorium that has prevented any new e-schools from opening since 2005, total e-school enrollment has skyrocketed to over 29,000 statewide.
  • There are wide variations among Ohio's e-schools. They range from large schools (the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow enrolled 9,257 students in 2009–2010) to small local operations (the Kent Digital Academy enrolled 26 students). Although only seven of the state’s 27 e-schools are considered "statewide," together they enroll nearly 90 percent of all e-school students.
  • Performance also varies widely and appears to be unrelated to the size of the school. The Ohio Connections Academy, one of the largest e-schools, is rated "Excellent" on the state's performance rating. The Massillon Digital Academy, enrolling just 79 students, was deemed to be in "Academic Emergency" by the state.