Last week I wrote the first in what will probably be an on-going topic – as it is a topic that I am particularly interesting (see Problem With Cyber Charter Schools – Part One).
Cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania (and Ohio for that matter) when they were first created did suffer from many of the problems described in these articles (e.g., lack of oversight, fraud in terms of funding provided for students that didn’t actually attend the cyber charter school, lack of participation in state testing regimes, etc.). While I believe in both instances (i.e., Pennsylvania and Ohio) that things have gotten much better, I do still believe that within the traditional public education community this early “Wild West” mentality gained them a reputation that they still haven’t been able to shake (and that has followed cyber charter schools to other jurisdictions).
Now the argument can – and likely will be made as soon as I post this – that cyber charter schools cater to a different kind of student. I’ve speculated as much in a recent article in the Journal of Distance Learning:
However, in this instance the literature may not provide a complete picture of the virtual school landscape. For example, in her opening remarks to the 2007 annual Virtual School Symposium, Susan Patrick explained that the two courses with the highest enrolment of online students in the United States were Algebra I and Algebra II. These mathematics courses are usually taken in the first year of high school, and many of the online students enrolled in these courses are taking the course for the second or third time. Watson et al. (2008) indicated that the largest growth in K–12 online learning enrolment is in the full-time cyber schools, and both Watson et al. and Klein (2006) indicate that many cyber schools have a higher percentage of students classified as ‘at-risk’. Rapp, Eckes, and Plurker (2006) described at-risk students as those who might otherwise drop out of traditional schools. Concerns or issues that students have with their teachers and courses (such as organisation, lessons, assignments, and grading) have the potential to create roadblocks to success. While the report Charter Schools in Eight States: Effects on Achievement, Attainment, Integration, and Competition reports that “virtual [cyber] charter middle schools lag substantially behind classroom-based charter middle schools” (Zimmer, 2009, pp. 40–41), it also cautions against drawing conclusions because many of those included in the comparison “may be students who are especially likely to have experienced an event producing a decline in their expected future achievement” (p. 41). These events cause the kind of roadblocks described by Rapp and her colleagues. (Barbour, 2009, 17-18)
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It was just a week or two ago that I was chatting with a colleague in the K-12 online learning community who indicated that he refuses to even mention cyber charter schools when he does presentations about K-12 online learning because in his opinion there had not been able publicly available, independent research and/or evaluations conducted on any of these for profit companies.
shared by Dennis OConnor on 30 Aug 11 - Cached
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