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

January 17, 2012 - 6:00pm

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 days 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 or at (772) 801-5341.

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