Accountability of Online Schools

Monday's big online return to Georgia schools needed tech support - Georgia  Recorder

Despite the fear from Merton (2012) that technology was becoming an autonomous and destructive force, technology has implemented a new form of learning in education and online school has become a choice for many districts and students. While families and students make their decision to enroll into online school, accountability has been my concern in this new wave. While my earliest focus about accountability was developed around how students are held accountable for their engagement and participation in digital education, I began to reflect on the accountability of schools in providing and implementing quality online education to students from K-12. Therefore, I decided to investigate accountability system and measurement of online schools for K-12 students. 

Online learning requires teacher deliver content and instruction through the internet and students learn and demonstrate their academic performance through internet. According to the research from the National Charter School Resource Center, there are 32 states in the U.S offers fully online school which students are not required to attend classes in physical space in 2012-2013 serving an estimated 310,000 students. Some schools offer partial online supplemental program for enrichment purpose or blended-learning model to combine online and face-to-face instruction mixed.  

Watson and Pape (2015) raised the concerns that online schools are held accountable for students learning outcome and being measured based of grade-level proficiency in reading and math and graduation rates in the state accountability system like traditional schools without taking their high mobility student population into account.  

Watson and Pape (2015) argued that online learning and online schools represent as an alternative way for many students due to its flexible nature. Students who chose to attend online schools are accelerated students, at-risk students, students with extenuating life circumstances, students with medical issue, previously homeschooled students, or students who are seeking additional program with dual enrollment. High percentage of family consider online school as short-term plan. Many students transfer back to traditional school as soon as their life situation get resolved. The belief that “learning by apprenticeship can work only in the nearness of classroom and laboratory; never in cyberspace” (Dreyfus, 2014, p646) plays an important role in many families’ decision to go back to traditional school. These student population contributed a high mobility rate for online schools.  

Why Families Choose Online School

However, state accountability system does not address the reality of situation. For example, students who enrolled in online school but leaves prior to graduating. Watson and Pape (2015) recommended to create a different framework can align with online schools and reflect the students they sever. Measuring online school accountability should focus on student growth during online school enrollment to ensure that schools are held accountable for advancing students during their time at the school, even though it is a very short stop along their educational path. 

The research clearly shows that the current accountability system does not acknowledge or track student mobility nor reflect the quality of student learning experience. While many schools are currently moving to online learning or a blended model with a portion of face to face instruction due to pandemic, should leaders and policy makers review and facilitate change to our current accountability system for schools with remote learning? Without an effective accountability measurement system for schools, it is challenging for educators to set expectation and hold students accountable in online learning.  


Albert Borgmann, “Contemplation in a Technological Era: Learning from Thomas Merton,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 64:1 (2012): 3-10. Retrieved from

Locke, G., Ableidinger, J,. Hassel, B., Barrett, S., (2014) “Virtual Schools: Assessing Progress and Accountability Final Report of Study Findings” American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from

Hubert Dreyfus, “Anonymity versus Commitment: The Dangers of Education on the Internet,” Philosophy of Technology, 641-47. Retrieved from

Watson, J., Pape, L. (2015). School Accountability in the Digital Age. Retrieved from