EDUCATION
09/27/2011 02:26 pm ET | Updated Nov 27, 2011

Colorado Senator Seeks K-12 Online School Audit, Cites Poor Grades, Structure

Colorado Democratic Senate President Brandon Shaffer is seeking an emergency audit of online K-12 schools.

In a letter to lawmakers Monday, Shaffer said he had "serious concerns" about student failure rates and initiatives that seek to gain state funding through increased enrollment, the Associated Press reports.

He wants by January a report on how much online K-12 programs cost and how much funding should be allotted. Shaffer argues that over half of students in online K-12 schools are failing, and the programs are poorly organized and lack long-term planning and goal-setting.

Other politicians are criticizing Shaffer for political maneuvering in his request ahead of election season, according to the AP, as an audit would generally require nine months to complete.

More than 1 million K-12 students took online courses during the 2007-08 academic year, according to a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Education -- the most recent data available.

Although proponents tout online learning's cost effectiveness, little research exists on how effective virtual courses actually are.

If Colorado lawmakers decide today to honor Shaffer's request for an audit, the findings may be among the first to provide more comprehensive insight into the operations and efficacy of online schooling.

Already, schools across the country are gradually taking up pieces of online learning. This month, Indiana's superintendent of public instruction proposed requiring his state's high schoolers to take at least one online course before graduating.

If lawmakers accept his proposal, Indiana would join the ranks of several other states that have recently announced moving toward mandatory online coursework. Florida's recently passed Digital Learning Now law similarly requires that high school students take at least one online course before earning their diploma, among other provisions. In Idaho, the Board of Education is considering a policy that would require high schoolers to earn at least two online credits towards a diploma.