- Under a new provision in Wisconsin’s budget, some school districts will not be held accountable for the virtual charter schools they host.
- If more than half of the virtual students enrolled in a virtual charter live outside of the district’s boundaries, the school’s test scores will be excluded from the district’s annual ranking.
- The provision was the product of advocacy by the two virtual schools that receive failing grades in the state; the state’s school chief asked the Gov. Scott Walker to veto the provision, but Walker opted not to.
State Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), who introduced the provision to the budget, praised the virtual schools for doing what he called “mission work.”
“We don’t want these districts to not do this anymore because it’s bringing down the grade for the district,” he said. But critics say the provision means that brick-and-mortar schools will be unfairly held to a higher standard while online schools dodge accountability strictures.
Wisconsin, along with several other states, has rolled out extensive virtual schooling systems run by charter school operators. Some have excelled on state ranking systems, but by and large, they perform no better — and often worse — than traditional public schools. Other states have struggled with how to hold them accountable. In Colorado, several districts have been brought to the brink of state intervention by their struggling online students. One opted to shut down their school last year in order to avert becoming the first district in the state to face potentially heavy-handed turnaround efforts. A second soon followed suit.
In Ohio, the state’s school choice chief stepped down over a decision to withhold failing grades for several of the state’s virtual charters. Three schools received Fs on the state ranking system, but those evaluations weren't included in the quality assessments of the companies that run them.