Spending $2,159 Less Per Student, Online School Outscores Florida Campuses on AP Exams

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: January 23, 2012 3:55 AM
Student on Laptop

Credit: Odua Images - Shutterstock

Online students at Florida Virtual School outperformed their traditional-school peers on Advanced Placement tests in 2011, and at less cost, new studies show.

Florida Virtual School reported scores that averaged 12 percentage points higher than conventional high schools on the 2011 AP exams. The Internet-based school offered 15 AP courses to 3,053 students, an 18 percent increase from the previous year.

Some 58 percent of FLVS test-takers achieved qualifying scores of 3, 4 or 5, compared with 46 percent at conventional campuses around Florida. The FLVS success rate matched the national average.

Breaking down the results:
  • FLVS students were above the state qualifying AP averages in 11 of 15 courses.
  • FLVS students were above the national qualifying AP averages in six of the courses.
  • AP Environmental Science, in its first year at FLVS, surpassed the state qualifying average by 20 points and the national average by 9 points.
  • Minority students accounted for 46 percent of 2011 AP course enrollments at FLVS.
  • The highest rates of passage at FLVS were Spanish (95 percent) and Computer Science (93 percent). Traditional schools' best passage rate was 78 percent in Calculus BC (where FLVS students scored at 88 percent).
  • Conventional-school passage rates beat FLVS in Biology (36-28 percent, FLVS' lowest score); U.S. History (39-35); Calculus AB (49-44); and English Language & Composition (54-53).
"The Advanced Placement exam results provide a good indicator as to how well Florida Virtual School students are performing," stated Star Kraschinsky, FLVS' director of communications. "We are so proud of our students and teachers for all of their hard work and accomplishments."

Founded in 1997, FLVS' K-12 instructional program is operated under the guidance of a seven-member board of trustees appointed by the governor. With enrollment inside and outside the Sunshine State, the school calls itself "the largest provider of Internet-based courseware and instruction for middle and high school students in Florida and around the globe."

A separate national study showed that Internet-based instruction like that offered by Florida Virtual School is delivered at a fraction of the cost incurred by conventional campuses.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute found "faculty and administration" costs at online schools run around $2,500 per pupil, compared with $6,500 at traditional schools. Not surprisingly, "school operations" costs also were lower online.

On the other hand, virtual schools spend as much or more on "student services" and "content" while expending roughly three times more on "technology."

Totaling the five spending categories, Fordham calculated that traditional schools nationally spend an average of $10,000 per student while online schools cost just $6,400 per pupil.

Kraschinsky said traditional schools in Florida run an average cost of $6,999.38 per full-time equivalent student while FLVS runs $2,158.86 less per FTE than its conventional counterparts.

"At day’s end, the promise of online learning is twofold: More effective uses of technology have the potential both to improve student outcomes and to create a more productive educational system," the Fordham study concluded.

See Fordham's findings here.

Learn more about Florida Virtual School here.

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (8)

1:51PM JAN 25TH 2012
The constant and steady rise of college costs at a multiple to annual inflation is simple to explain........tuition rises as quickly as student borrowing is expanded.

I attended and graduated from a university and my total costs for four years was much less costly than one semester today and more comprehensive than at most state universities.
Patrick Mattimore
6:42AM JAN 24TH 2012
There should be huge caveats with this story that just b/c students from FLVS scored higher on the AP exam does not mean they necessarily received superior instruction or that the higher costs associated with traditional ed are not worth it. Fact is that the students enrolling in FLVS are probably different (higher achieving) than the students enrolled in traditional high schools. Many students in Fla. are pushed into AP classes at their hs for which they are inadequately prepared whereas the self-motivated, self-starters who enroll in FLVS are making the AP enrollment decision (likely) on their own.
Devil's Advocate
12:46PM JAN 27TH 2012
I agree that just because they scored higher does not mean they received "superior" instruction. However, the scores say alot. The students taking AP courses online are not necessarily "self-motivated self-starters." Many are forced to take courses online by their parents. Many are forced to take AP courses online because FLVS is not a "gatekeeper." At traditional schools, teacher recommendations and prereqs are required before taking AP courses. Online, there is nothing preventing a ninth grader with no high school courses under their belt from signing up. The fact that this school can surpass the state average while allowing any student and not blocking them access makes these statistics that much more amazing. Don't make assumptions about students who sign up for online courses. Do celebrate their successes and the success this school has brought to the Florida Education System..
Stat Man
5:51PM AUG 15TH 2012
If more ice cream was purchased by consumers in the winter months, would it be appropriate to claim that the cold temperatures caused the increase in sales? Statistics 101 - correlation does not mean causation.

In most schools teacher preapproval is NOT required to place students into AP courses. In fact, in some counties the superintendent ges a bonus for each child "ENROLLED" in AP not for each child who "PASSES" - which has caused our public schools to significantly increase the enrollment in these AP courses whether or not the student is truly "Advanced" or not.
Patrick Mattimore
6:44AM JAN 28TH 2012
The assumptions I'm making are that the students enrolled in FLVS are different than students taking the classes in traditional high schools. They may or may not be but there is insufficient context in the story to know one way or another. While it's true that some Fla. schools require teacher approval to take AP, the trend in Fla. is towards open access.
I'm neither applauding nor condemning FLVS but i think it's a stretch to claim success without knowing more about the students who enroll in the program in the first place. Just as one example, it would be interesting to see data as to comparative PSAT scores of students enrolling in FLVS and those taking AP in high school.
My major objections to the story are twofold:
First, the tone of the article- particularly the headline- imply that FLVS has been able to do something with less money than can traditional public schools. That is an unwarranted conclusion without more details.
Second, the article quotes a rep from FLVS which appears to lend support to the idea that FLVS is pulling rabbits from hats here.
Robert Lloyd
7:53PM JAN 24TH 2012
Government worker to the defense.
GOP supporter
9:03AM JAN 23RD 2012
As a veteran reader, I am surprised to see Jim Turner's name as the author of this story. It is clearly the writing of Kenric Ward. As readers, we know who can actually write. The quality of this site is going downhill fast. Mr. Ward is a great journalist...I'm sure you want to give credit where credit is due?
Jim B.
3:51PM JAN 23RD 2012
GOP Supporter you are 100% correct. It appears now that they have decided to place Mr. Ward's name at the top of the story.

Someone did not do a good job editing this morning as Mr. Ward's name was at the bottom of the story and some hack's was at the top.

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