Report on Online Charters a Solid Contribution

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Much work remains to be done for online charter schools to be successful

Over the past decade, online charter schools have increasingly been the subject of critical or negative news. A recent study from the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) provides an in-depth analysis of policy features across the states that allow online charters, concluding that perhaps the online charters should use a separate regulatory framework than brick-and-mortar charters.

Gary Miron, a professor at Western Michigan University, reviewed The Policy Framework for Online Charter Schools for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

Professor Miron describes the report as presenting a well-organized description of policy features and as including a set of policy recommendations that generally, but not always, follow well from the study’s evidence.

CRPE is an organization that often advocates for charter schools, and the report’s discussion of findings, as well as comments about the report from national charter school leaders, suggests that rather than acting to improve online charter schools, the charter school establishment would prefer to separate online charter schools from brick-and-mortar charter schools and govern them with a separate policy framework. While it is true that online charter schools were not envisioned in the charter school laws passed in the 1990s, Miron notes that, similarly, private education management organizations (EMOs) were not envisioned in charter school legislation. Yet today they play a dominant role and undermine the charter school ideal that assumed that charter schools would be autonomous and locally run public schools.

Miron cautions that online charter issues are not completely distinct from issues that arise from other charters. Yet he also cautions against the largely negative findings being seized on by groups that are broadly critical of charter schools, since many of those findings are indeed unique to online charters.

“Overall,” Professor Miron concludes, “the detailed analyses of policy environments and the summary of problems in the online charter school sector included in this report should be useful to policymakers who are willing and able to pursue more restrictive oversight and increased accountability for online charter schools.”

Find Professor Miron’s review at:

Find The Policy Framework for Online Charter Schools, by Rosa Pazhouh, Robin Lake, & Larry Miller, published by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, at:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project ( provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at:

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William J. Mathis

Gary Miron
Western Michigan University
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