After reading David’s post about his son attending a virtual school [at http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=23 ], we realized we needed to learn more about “Virtual Schools.” After doing some research, we learned about some of the pros and cons of virtual schools, and how parents should proceed when considering a virtual school.
Parents tend to be positive about virtual schools. One parent described the virtual school her 6th-grader attends “as the 21st-century, middle-class version of the private tutor.” Her child can move quickly through her strong subjects, and spend more time on her weaker areas, like math.
But … there’s a catch.
Because virtual schools are so new, there has been little research to measures the quality of the programs or determine which students benefit from them. One expert expressed these concerns: “There has been no valid study showing that children participating in virtual or computer-based learning models are performing any better than in traditional schools.”
Some experts say the programs don’t have enough oversight – for example, tracking attendance. Most states require a minimum number of hours of instruction. At some virtual schools, parents to submit a weekly log of their child’s hours. Computer log-ins provide some objective accounting. A better way to account for learning may be to keep track of course material completed, not number of hours of instruction.
What counts as learning time may not be clear. A teacher at one virtual school said that a family’s Bible reading would count. But the state official who oversees virtual schools for that state says parents can’t count time spent on curriculum not provided by the school.
According to the North American Council for Online Learning [http://www.nacol.org/], enrollment in online classes reached the 1 million mark last year. Some experts predict that by 2019 half of courses in Grades 9 to 12 will be delivered online.
Virtual schools may be like other educational models – good for some kids, not for others. Before deciding to enroll your child in a virtual school, you need educate yourself. Spend time learning about the pros and cons of virtual schools – and about the particular school you are considering. Talk to other parents whose children attend the school. Since virtual schools are held to the same standards as “regular” schools under NCLB, ask to see the virtual school’s report card. ~ Pam