- Maine Virtual Academy, a new online charter, has seen a 25% drop in student enrollment since the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, alongside a high number of truant students.
- After just 90 days of school, 76 students in the initial class of 297 have left, reports the Portland Press Herald.
- Reps from K12 Inc, which was contracted as a curriculum provider, have reportedly defended the shrinkage by claiming that an initial withdrawal rate of between 20-25% is to be expected for virtual charters, but Maine's other online charter, Maine Connections Academy, saw a drop of just 11% in the first 90 days after it opened in 2014, and an additional 7% this year.
Part of the reason for students dropping out of virtual schools is likely the fact that they don't fully understand what it's like to attend an online school. Overall, it requires a greater level of focus and self-direction than a traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms, and some students simply learn better with the face-to-face presence of a teacher.
Experts have suggested solutions such as a "try-out week" for potential students to explore before officially enrolling. The national average for the first-year withdrawal rate at other online charter schools in K12 Inc's network is unknown, the Press Herald reports.
Still, in Maine, the law mandates that any student can enroll in and attend an online charter, if they so desire. A noteworthy aspect of the state's charters has been their above-average enrollment of special education students, which are reported to comprise 20% of the total student population.