New joint report shows Michigan cyber charter schools outperform other states in math and reading

Michigan charter authorizers hold online schools accountable

Lansing, Mich. – A new joint report shows that Michigan cyber charter school students are outperforming their counterparts in other states. According to the study of online charter schools in 18 states – conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University (CREDO), Mathematical Policy Research, and Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington – Michigan online students showed more growth in reading and math than their peers.

Compared to the other 17 states, the study shows students attending Michigan online charter schools perform the highest in math and second highest in reading. According to the report, “Practices in those states who are producing positive results may hold useful lessons for the remaining states.”

“The results of the study are promising considering the student makeup in Michigan cyber schools included a significant amount of high school dropouts and other at-risk students. Michigan authorizers hold their cyber schools to the high standards we expect from every school and it shows in the results of this study,” said Jared Burkhart, executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers. “We will continue to support the high standards and accountability measures that lead to high performance.”

The study also points out that the aspects of the Michigan model of online education, which includes teacher monitoring of students academic growth, are important in student achievement. Michigan authorizers have implemented specialized ways to oversee the schools effectively including individualized enrollment monitoring and specialized financial reviews.

“Cyber schools are a growing way to provide educational opportunities,” said Burkhart. “Studies like this will help provide the research that is necessary to improve outcomes for all students.”

Michigan currently has approximately 6,800 students attending seven charter cyber schools. During much of the time period studied, Michigan only allowed charter cyber schools to operate if at least 50 percent of students were high school dropouts.

Click here to read the complete study.


The joint study included analyses of online charter attendance by state. In the full-data general case analysis, researchers used statistical methods to control for differences between states. In the online charter by state analyses, researchers examined the impact of online charter attendance by each state as compared to the state’s average student academic growth. In Figure 5 and Figure 6, the zero line is the average growth of a cyber student in the state. A positive effect size means the average online charter student had stronger growth than the average comparison. A negative effect size means growth for online charter students was weaker than the average virtual control record (VCR) comparison student.

Figure 5 shows the impact for online charter students in reading. Michigan had positive effect sizes in reading.

Figure 5: Online Charter Effect Size by State, Reading


The 0.00 line for this graph represents the average Traditional Public School (TPS) Virtual Control Record (VCR), White, non-poverty, non-ELL, non-SPED student. *Denotes significant at the .05 level. **Denotes significant at the .01 level.


The effect sizes by state in math are shown in Figure 6. Michigan cyber students performed higher than counterparts. In 14 states, the impacts on math growth of attending an online charter school were significantly weaker than the comparison group. Three states had effect sizes, which were not different from the comparison groups. The math and reading results show there is a large amount of variation in the effectiveness of online charter schools in promoting academic growth in students attending those schools.

Figure 6: Online Charter Effect Size by State, Math


The 0.00 line for this graph represents the average TPS VCR, White, non-poverty, non-ELL, non-SPED student. *Denotes significant at the .05 level. **Denotes significant at the .01 level.