CLEVELAND — Enrollment in online schools in Ohio has passed 30,000, more than 12 times the number in 2000 when the first “virtual” school opened in the state.
Only Arizona had more students enrolled full time in online schools in 2010-11, according to an annual report by the Evergreen Education Group.
Such students attend classes online and do lessons by computer, often at home, typing in tests and papers to be reviewed by a teacher elsewhere.
Most Ohio students enrolled in virtual schools, about 90 percent, attend one of the seven statewide online schools, according to a story Sunday by the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer and the StateImpact Ohio collaboration among National Public Radio and Ohio public-radio stations WCPN, WKSU, and WOSU.
Although scattered around the state, the online students combined would make up the third-largest district in Ohio — about the size of the Cincinnati school district.
The online schools are charters, independently operated but publicly funded.
Ohio has lifted a moratorium on creating online schools, which had been imposed in 2005. In 2013, up to five new online schools can start in the state, though the Ohio Department of Education says none has yet announced plans.
Gary Miron, co-author of national studies about online schools and their operators for the National Education Policy Center, which receives some funding from the National Education Association, said Ohio has fewer requirements for online schools than most states.
Ohio legislators have postponed establishing more regulations for online schools.
Most of Ohio’s full-time online schools are operated by local school districts and educational service centers.
Ohio’s online schools have become a big business. The state paid online charter schools $209 million in 2010-11 to educate students, or an average of $6,337 a student.
Online students have lower graduation rates than those at traditional schools. They attend college at a lower rate. At the same time, other measures have shown online students learning as much as, or more than, students in many districts.