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Center for American Progress

Supporting S.B. 441 on Increasing Accountability for Virtual Charter Schools

Supporting S.B. 441 on Increasing Accountability for Virtual Charter Schools

Scott Sargrad, former vice president of K-12 Education Policy at CAP, testified before the Nevada legislature in support of S.B. 441.

The transcript below is of an oral testimony originally published in minutes of the Nevada Assembly Committee on Education:

[excerpt_box]The Center for American Progress is a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C. I am also a former math teacher and special education paraprofessional. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share our research about virtual charter schools and speak in support of the goals of Senate Bill 441 (1st Reprint) today. A synopsis of this research is available as an exhibit (Exhibit E).

Last year, we published a report on virtual charter schools titled Profit Before Kids, which built on the growing body of research and media reports showing that, on average, fully virtual schools perform much worse than brick-and-mortar schools serving similar populations of students. At the same time, laws and regulations have not kept pace with the growth of these virtual schools, allowing the for-profit entities running many of them to focus on increasing profits at the expense of student outcomes.

One of the studies we highlighted came from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. This study found that the effect of attending a virtual school on academic growth was similar to missing 72 days of instruction in reading and 180 days in math. In Nevada, the results in reading were even starker—about 120 days of learning— while the math results were similar to the national average. These lackluster results have been accompanied by controversies across the country. In Ohio, the state’s largest virtual charter school was shut down last year when it was unable to repay the state over $60 million for students whose attendance it could not verify.

The goals of Senate Bill 441 (1st Reprint) would increase transparency and accountability for virtual charter schools. Limiting statewide programs to a single statewide authorizer is an important objective to prevent “authorizer shopping.” Allowing the charter school authority to create separate requirements for distance education programs is another valuable aim so they can better understand how students are engaging with, and progressing through, their distance education program.

To be sure, there are instances where virtual learning may be a good fit for some students and families. But acknowledging that does not mean the schools have to be managed the way too many virtual schools are managed today. Students and taxpayers deserve better. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you today.[/excerpt_box]

Status of legislation: The bill was introduced on March 25, 2019, and referred to the Nevada Committee on Education. It was later signed by the governor and went into effect on June 1, 2019.

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Scott Sargrad

Vice President, K-12 Education Policy