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The problem with online charter schools

In most places, kids are falling way behind.

Video by Liz Scheltens and Mallory Brangan

For the past 100 years or so, the American school day hasn’t changed much. Sure, there are new tools and technologies, but the basic structure — students in a classroom, led by a teacher — has looked the same for a long time.

But that’s changing. A small but growing number of students now have a new option: full-time, online public education. Instead of going to a school building and sitting in front of a teacher, their school day happens at home, in front of a computer.

The share of American students who attend online charter schools is small — less than 1 percent — but the number is growing. Data from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado show a fairly steady increase since 2011.

Source: National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado
Chart by Mallory Brangan

In their ads, these schools promise autonomy, flexibility, and peace of mind for parents and students who haven’t found success in traditional schools. There’s just one problem: The data shows students in these schools are falling way behind.

To learn more about how these schools work, and how millions in state tax dollars help fund them, check out this video. Watch more of Vox’s videos and subscribe for the latest on YouTube.

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