New Study Determines Students in Full-Time Online Public Schools Possess Strong Social Skills

Release Date: June 02, 2009

Contact: Dr. Jay Sivin-Kachala

National study represents the first significant research on socialization in online schools

June 2, 2009 – A new study concludes that the social skills of students enrolled in full-time, online public schools are superior to or not significantly different than students enrolled in traditional public schools.

The independent study was completed by Interactive Education Systems Design (IESD), Inc., in collaboration with The Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) at the University of Memphis. It represents the first significant research effort on the social skills of students in full-time, online public schools.

“Online public schools are experiencing rapid growth across the country,” said Dr. Jay Sivin-Kachala, Vice-President of IESD, who led the research project. “Yet some concerns have been expressed that students enrolled in online public schools may suffer from a lack of opportunities for socialization, and consequently may fail to develop important social skills. The results of this study provide substantial evidence supporting the conclusion that typical, mainstream students enrolled in full-time, online public schools are at least as well socialized as equivalent students enrolled in traditional public schools.”

Dr. Sivin-Kachala added, “Preliminary evidence also suggests that students enrolled in full-time, online public schools might have an advantage in their social skills development if they are highly engaged in activities outside the school day – including both activities involving peer interaction and activities not involving peer interaction.”

Dr. Sivin-Kachala earned a Doctorate of Education (Ed. D.) in educational technology from Teachers College at Columbia University and has designed and led numerous research projects in the field of education.

Other findings from the study include:

  • Children who were enrolled in full-time, online public schools were highly engaged in activities outside of the school day.
  • Problem behaviors of students enrolled in full-time, online public schools were either significantly lower or not significantly different to their peers in traditional public schools.
  • Spending a longer time enrolled in full-time, online public schools was not associated with lower social skills.
  • A majority of parents described improvement in a variety of academic, personal, and interpersonal skills since their child enrolled in a full-time, online public school.

How the study was conducted
During February through August 2008 IESD and CREP conducted an evaluation research study involving more than 250 students in grades 2, 4, and 6 that were enrolled in four full-time, online public schools: Arizona Virtual Academy, California Virtual Academy at San Diego, Idaho Virtual Academy, and Ohio Virtual Academy.

Parents, teachers, and students completed evaluations of students’ social skills and problem behaviors, using the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), published by Pearson Assessments (Gresham & Elliot, 1990)—an evaluation instrument that has been widely used in numerous studies and described as the most comprehensive instrument of its kind because of its multi-source approach (allowing for ratings by teachers, parents, and students themselves). These evaluations were then compared to national norms for the SSRS, including both norms across the elementary grades and norms for specific grade/gender categories (e.g., grade 2 females).

The study also collected information from parents (via a survey) about reasons for choosing a full-time, online public school; students’ involvement in activities outside of school; and parents’ perspectives on the impact of online public schooling.

The study was sponsored by K¹² Inc., the nation’s leading provider of K-12 proprietary curriculum and online school programs, with approval from the independent governing boards of the four participating online public schools. However, the findings and conclusions in the study represent IESD and CREP’s independent analysis of the collected data.

The comprehensive report and white paper summary can be found at

About IESD:
Interactive Educational Systems Design (IESD), Inc. provides a variety of services related to research and evaluation, marketing, and development of educational software, multimedia products, websites, and print-based instructional programs. IESD has performed research and analysis for a number of education clients including non-profit institutions, government agencies, and school districts.

About CREP:
The Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) at The University of Memphis has served as a leading resource in educational research, evaluation, and consultation since 1989. CREP’s areas of expertise include quantitative and qualitative evaluation research methods in numerous fields, including literacy, education technology, and school improvement and effectiveness.

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