Online education not working in Minnesota

These kids are probably not learning.

These kids are probably not learning.

There are all kinds of things you can learn on the internet, like what your former lovers are up to, the prices of various super-cute shoes, and whether the honey badger, officially, do or don't care.

What you can't learn online are things like math and literature, according to a new report from the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor. The commissioned report found that online schooling for K-12 kids is not as effective as in-person classes, with online students not completing courses, dropping out, and falling behind in standardized tests.

The report, released today, recommends that the state's education department "redesign its approach to overseeing online schools," which is legislative auditor-speak for, "This is broke, fix it."

The auditors have officially "Unliked" online education.


About 20,000 kids across the state took at least one online class last year, with 8,000 taking the class option through their regular school and 12,000 "attending" schools that are strictly online, according to the report. There are 24 such approved online schools in the state, and attendance is on the rise: From the 2006 school year to 2009, the number of students taking online-only education tripled.

This is a great tool to learn about new Katy Perry downloads... maybe not Algebra.

This is a great tool to learn about new Katy Perry downloads... maybe not Algebra.

The auditors' report finds that many students seemed to be forced out of school and into online learning, with online administrators telling them students turned to computerized education after struggling in other schools, often signing up in the middle of the year.

But, as the number of classes and students going online to learn has risen dramatically, success rates are falling: In 2006, online courses had an 84 percent completion rate, and in 2009 that number plummeted to 63 percent.

As for dropping out, traditional schools in Minnesota experience pretty low numbers: Only 3 percent of seniors drop out.  For online schools -- where "leaving school" presumably takes place with a few clicks of the mouse -- the drop-out rate was a staggering 25 percent for seniors enrolled in 2009.

And in testing, traditional students vastly outperform their online counterparts, at least in math. Among about 67,000 sophomores and juniors statewide, 41 percent rated "proficient" in math testing; it doesn't take some sort of math... person to know that's bad, but it's a lot better than the 16 percent proficiency rating among 385 online students who took the same test.

In literacy, the numbers are nearly even, including the surprising finding that online students in grades 3-8 just barely outperformed their in-person competition, with 74 percent to 72 percent, respectively.

Maybe they'd been reading lots of super-hilarious Twitter feeds?