Cyber Schools? What Side Are You On?
One of the most controversial aspects of online education to appear in recent years is something known as the cyber school. These are online schools that are recruiting students from traditional schools. These home-based programs allow children to telecommute to school just as older students do for online college courses or continuing education. In specialized fields such as six sigma online training, online access has opened up important educational opportunities. Cyber schools are somewhat different. They are being offered to students who could attend local public schools. Another key difference is that cyber schools are structured as charter schools. According to The Express-Times and The Huffington Post , in Pennsylvania 32,322 students are enrolled in cyber schools and enrollment is continuing to grow. As it does, these schools are taking students and by extension budgets away from traditional public schools. A survey conducted in 5 Pennsylvania counties found that the $15.3 million of public money was spent on cyber schooling in 2011. Disturbingly only 2 out of 12-cyber schools managed to meet No Child Left Behind standards.
In Pennsylvania the Lehigh Valley public school and others are looking to fight back against the cyber school trend by offering their own online cyber academies. By doing this the traditional schools retain the funds and are able to see to it that the children are taught to state standards.
Cyber schools and district schools in Pennsylvania are paid a flat fee per student rather than according to what it costs them to educate the students. Without the overhead of school facilities and the requirements of traditional schools the cyber schools are no-doubt profitable. To date the state has not seen any refunded cyber school profits.
Proponents of cyber schooling point out that children have access to an individualized curriculum including foreign language study. Cyber home schooling allows children that do not fit well into the public school environment to home school electronically. Students from poor districts can opt to take cyber classes from wealthier areas and avoid many of the troubling social issues that exist within their local schools. Without a doubt for some cyber schooling is a real opportunity.
Unfortunately, cyber schools are also new. What if a chronically truant child opts to cyber school? What if time-strapped parents fail to oversee cyber schooling at all? What about basic things that often help the poorest students like free school meals and field trips? Do cyber students experience group socialization and team learning?
In Pennsylvania cyber schooling is a reality that educators are embracing. What is happening in your district and how do you feel about cyber school education?