April 11, 2011

It’s all in the numbers

Much of the growth we are seeing in K-12 online and blended learning is coming not from state-level programs, but rather at the district level. This complicates data collection, as data gathering can no longer happen through one centralized source, but now must happen through hundreds of school districts across each state. With the number of online courses and providers proliferating, it is critical for districts and states to set up reporting systems that will allow for efficient and effective data collection. As district programs continue to grow, states will be able to justify additional investment if they understand the breadth and depth of the online learning in their states.

Florida provides an illustrative case study of both the benefits and the challenges around data collection and use. Florida Virtual School, the largest online school in the country and one of the oldest, has a long history of providing student results through evaluations and other published reports. With new online options being offered through the Virtual Instruction Program and the District Franchises, online options are no longer as centralized, challenging the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) to track, manage, and report far more data from many different sources.

Florida Virtual School District Franchise and School District Virtual Instructional Programs reported the following student completions across the state for 2009-10:

Grade Level Total by Grade
K 10
1 135
2 257
3 249
4 222
5 219
6 370
7 371
8 413
9 319
10 359
11 368
12 362
Total 3,654

The DOE also has online student enrollment by district, with many districts in the range of just a handful of students and a high of 529 enrollments in Hillsborough. As about 1400 of these completions came through the District VIP program that started in 2008, we expect to see these numbers grow quickly.

School District Total by District
Alachua 37
Bay 73
Brevard 45
Broward 360
Charlotte 16
Citrus 48
Clay 84
Collier 33
Columbia 10
Dade 60
Duval 218
Escambia 42
Flagler 36
Hamilton 14
Hernando 33
Highlands 17
Hillsborough 529

FLDOE also has enrollment data that is self-reported by private providers. These data show that K12 Inc. and Connections Academy (in partnership with FLVS) have by far the most districts using their courses, with far smaller numbers of districts using Kaplan, Ed Options and National Network of Digital Schools.

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