Seeking to rectify the fact that "little is known about the inner workings of [virtual and blended learning schools]," the National Center for Education Policy has released its fourth annual report on full-time virtual and blended learning schools, "Virtual Schools Report 2016: Directory and Performance Review." The report found that large, for-profit providers dominate the virtual school market. Districts are building their own virtual schools, but these tend to be small and have limited enrollment, according to the NCEP.
The NCEP describes the report as providing "a census of full-time virtual schools and blended schools. It also includes student demographics, state-specific school performance ratings, and a comparison of virtual school outcomes with state norms."
The report is blunt in its assessment: "The school performance measures for both virtual and blended schools indicate that these schools are not as successful as traditional public schools. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that their enrollment growth has continued." The NCEP used a "college- and career-ready accountability system" to evaluate the schools. The agency compared blended and virtual schools to brick-and-mortar schools using several metrics, and students' relative performance on state English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments showed that 99 of the 121 virtual and blended schools surveyed performed at or below their states' averages.
In light of blended and virtual schools' poor performances, the NCEP recommends that policymakers halt the growth of virtual and blended schools until researchers have found a reason for students' poor performance and ways to correct it. Citing large class sizes as detrimental, the NCEP also recommended that virtual school providers determine a maximum ratio of students to teachers.
As a caveat, the NCEP acknowledged in the report that students in virtual and blended schools may differ significantly from those in physical schools. The nonprofit advocated for more research to better be able to understand the inner workings of these schools and their students.