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The relative benefits of live versus online delivery: evidence from virtual Algebra I in North Carolina. (English)
Econ. Educ. Rev. 53, 99-115 (2016).
Summary: Over one million K‒12 students pursue virtual education every year, but researchers know very little about the effectiveness of such programs. This paper exploits a district policy change that suddenly shifted advanced eighth graders into a virtual classroom for Algebra I. After the policy, higher-ability eighth graders in the treatment district began taking Algebra I in the virtual classroom at rates similar to the statewide average of their peers in traditional classrooms. The change in course delivery provides a unique opportunity to study effects of a virtual course on academic outcomes. The analysis uses variation in program uptake across performance quintile, district, and year in a difference-in-difference-in-difference approach to estimate the causal effect of the virtual course, finding that eighth grade virtual students tend to underperform relative to eighth graders who took Algebra I in a traditional classroom {\it and} relative to pre-policy, same-district students who had to take the course in ninth grade.
Classification: U53 H23 H33
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