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The Perfect Storm: K-12 Virtual Education for Students with Disabilities and High Stakes Graduation Requirements
AdvisorAbernathy, Tammy V.
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Virtual education has been touted as a potential solution for reaching students who might be considered lost to the traditional education system or who have reached their last educational alternative. Online learning and virtual schools are a new phenomenon and are growing at ever increasing rates. Despite this growth, limited research has been conducted on their effectiveness for students with disabilities. The lack of a single reporting agency on students attending virtual schools creates barriers in researching whom the students are, why they are choosing to leave and how this move to a virtual program affects their academic achievement and advancement, especially in grade promotion and graduation. This concern is magnified when research shows that students with disabilities are also choosing virtual schools at what some have called a critical rate, with very little empirical research on the effectiveness of virtual education for students with disabilities. This retrospective longitudinal study will provide demographic information of high school students with disabilities as well as examine variables such as type of teacher contact, length of enrollment, and enrollment grade level on credit attainment while attending a full-time virtual education program. Factors such as length of enrollment, total number of successful teacher contacts and a student’s credit attainment prior to enrollment were all found to significantly impact a student’s average credit attainment.