Virtual Schools

Megan Black

Reform

Most people that think of cyber charter schools, think they are schools that are responsible for students’ entire education. There has been no shortage of solutions for improving the nation’s public schools. School leadership, teacher quality, standards, testing, funding, and a host of other issues have crowded reform agendas. But an important trend in public education has gone largely unnoticed in the cacophony of policy proposals. The rise of a completely new class of public schools, virtual schools using the Internet to create online classrooms, that is bringing about reforms that have long eluded traditional public schools. Students that attend full-time virtual schools experience it as the primary sponsors of online learning. But in fact these cyber schools serve a small portion of the students learning online.

Years

1990-Present

Positive Aspects

  • One-one-one attention and the ability to work at their own pace
  • More flexibility in choosing when and where they learn-whether to accommodate health issues, special talents and interest in sports or the performing arts, family travel, or other scheduling needs
  • Personalized learning plans to help them grow and meet their goals-whether preparing for college or the workforce

Negative Aspects

Students in cyber charter schools scored significantly lower in both reading and mathematics than students in traditional schools and lower in mathematics than students in charter schools. For struggling students to succeed in a virtual school, the family and the student alike have to make a strong commitment to completing remediation activities, attend classes regularly, and working closely with the teachers.

Today

Nationally, there are several associations that research, collect data, support, and create awareness about online learning.

Nationwide, 45 states have online educational programs. Just two New England states offer an online education. In 1997, Florida established the first statewide, internet-based public high school. Today, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) enrolls more that 200,000 middle and high school students.

Virtual schools have the same goal as traditional, brick-and-mortar schools: to graduate students. Unlike traditional schools, virtual schools are Internet-based and available 24/7. Online learning enables student-centered teaching approaches. With personalized learning, education is a one-to-one ratio with instructors focusing on one student at a time. Every student has a front row seat. This allows for each student to learn at their own pace and the flexibility to take classes from anywhere, at any time.