How has the cyber charter landscape changed in the past year?
- In an update to its 2016 investigation of cyber charter schools, Education Week finds that, despite ongoing expansion, the sector still faces an ongoing struggle when it comes to graduation rates, academic achievement and financial mismanagement.
- The schools, however, now have a powerful ally in U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has expressed support for cyber charters among a bevy of other school choice options and also served as an early investor for virtual school operator K12, Inc.
- An interactive map produced by Education Week provides an overview of the variety of news stories focusing on cyber charters nationwide.
The idea of online learning isn't an inherently flawed one, but success is dependent upon it being the right fit for the student. In some cases, for example, it's seen as a convenient last chance for struggling students who need to catch up, but students who are already struggling in the classroom and need additional hands-on assistance may not fare as well in such a model. Students who are already strong independent learners and self-starters — especially those who are more introverted — may be more likely to benefit.
But the sector's student success woes are coupled with cyber charters in several states falling into financial mismanagement issues. In Ohio, for example, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), which serves 15,000 students, faced a state audit of attendance rates and corresponding funding levels. The issue stemmed from concerns over whether the $108 million in state funding provided to the school the prior year was appropriate in light of the amount of time students spent logged into the online learning system per day.
Such issues have led states like Pennsylvania to introduce laws that would crack down on truancy policies among virtual charters. The National Alliance for Public Charter schools, the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers also issued a joint report last year around student performance concerns in virtual charters.
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