Cyber Schools in Pennsylvania

A new report is out concerning the state of cyber schools in Pennsylvania. It finds that

Cyber charter[s] have become an inequitable corner of Pennsylvania’s school-choice system, leaving the state’s neediest students with another bad option that their peers from better-off school districts largely avoid.

Read the full Education Week article here.

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5 thoughts on “Cyber Schools in Pennsylvania

  1. I read this article with interest as I recall noticing Chester families choosing cyber charter schools when I worked as a librarian in the city. The companies advertised very heavily in the district, portraying their schools as an alternative to the troubled Chester Upland School District. The article’s historical perspective highlighted how early adopters were evenly spread among socioeconomic backgrounds, likely given the technology required and the novelty of the approach when it first began (I wish the article had provided more concrete dates to pinpoint when the schools initially enrolled students).

    While cyber charter schools provide an attractive alternative for parents worried about sending their children to unsafe, underperforming schools, the article shows that cyber charters are not meeting academic standards. The unfortunate result is still more losses of funding to the most already cash-strapped districts. While technology and school choice have been proposed as potential remedies to poorly performing public schools, the report’s conclusions show that, in their current form, they have only created more problems in need of solutions: “ ‘Contrary to policy intentions, the cyber charter movement exacerbated inequality and had dubious impact on academic quality.’ ”

    Online education at all levels is here to stay. It will be interesting to see how education evolves in this area to meet students’ needs throughout their academic careers.

  2. I have a mixed response to this article. First, it is another example of why I oppose school-choice in its current form. Families having a say where their children are educated sounds like a great idea. However, when our education system opened the door to privatization not only did it give out vouchers, it also brought out the vultures. And once again the most vulnerable and desperate suffer. Although, the article does not say I am sure there is very little oversight of these cyber schools by the state’s Department of Education. Subsequently, leaving these schools free to put profit before education and provide a dis-service to Pennsylvania students.

    Next, I am resident of one of Pennsylvania’s disadvantaged school districts. I see the desperation and urgency in parents seeking a better educational environment for their children. Again, options are great. However, they must do their homework and stay invested in their children’s education. They cannot just drop their child off in one of these cyber (or brick and mortar) alternative educational programs and assume everything will be better now. This article undoubtedly spells out how this may not be case.

  3. It’s a shame that there is so little independent over site in an online school program, thus leading towards under performing students. My experience with home schoolers has always been the amount of continual engagement that their parents arranged directly affects the students ability to thrive as an adult. Recently I saw a child who was pulled from school and his mother underwent a serious bout of depression around the same time she started working from home again. The combination of everything resulted in an unhealthy environment and serious lapses in a dynamic curriculum. When parent discussed the child having to take a standardized test in a school it became an unfathomable demand because he was so unused to that environment, time management, and test style, let alone the usual concerns of curriculum.
    I also agree with the conclusion that online charter school are more likely to occur in lower performing areas. If there was an engaging option in the community or a school that really worked with the student and their parents to make sure their needs were met then the overwhelming choice would be to stay in a brick and motor institution, having a variety of qualified teachers utilizing multiple mediums and medias to teach. It’s only when those options aren’t available that a parent would consider a smaller world of a single desktop experience.

  4. I have many mixed feeling about this topic because over the years I have felt that online schools would eventually replace physical schooling. That being said, there are problems when the online school is not educating/preforming beyond a certain standard. There are so many problems and so many overlapping reasons for them. Part of the problem is how determinations of “academic success” are measured, how funding is dispersed, and what other aspects are the schools dealing with that cause them to lack in educational aspects?
    I still believe that one day online schools will replace physical schools because they would cut so many costs (buildings, number of teachers, buses, cafeterias, fields, parking lots, security, and many other positions and expensive items). However, I think this will be a very slow process because it will seem too radical in the current environment.
    There is already obvious evidence (this article being an example) of a battle taking place between physical classrooms and online learning. I’m not sure what this will all lead to, but I am curious to see how situations like this develop over-time.

  5. I have looked into cyber schools for students that need to get their HSE, but have been hesitant to replace the standard way of teaching. Many students that come prefer to get online schooling so they can go at their own pace and I did also think that it would slowly replace schooling as we know it, but I do not know how beneficial it will be as of now. I think it will be safer, but I do not agree with taking away from the environment that helps them grow.

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