Choices In Education
By Dr. Heidi Gough
Director of Marketing and Communications
PA Leadership Charter School
Gone are the days where there were two choices for your child’s education: private school or your local district school. For decades, families struggled over this decision daily, was it in their budget, which is the best option for their child and what if it doesn’t work; then the school choice model exploded.
Over the last 20 years there has been an increase in school choice. Charter Schools and Cyber Charter Schools have been popping up all over PA. Charter Schools are approved by the local school district and Cyber Charter Schools are approved by the department of education, both are classified as Public Schools.
While similar in nature, these schools have one main difference:
- Brick and mortar charter schools are physically located within their approving school district.
- Cyber Charter Schools are located across the state.
Both types of charter schools must provide a minimum of one hundred and eighty (180) days of instruction (900 hours) to elementary level students and one hundred and eighty (180) days of instruction (990 hours) to secondary level students. In addition to adhering to all of the State Mandated Tests (Keystones, PSSA, SAT, PSAT), charter schools must show yearly improvements on student academic growth, student achievement (graduation), and closing any achievement gaps that may be present. As stated directly by PA Dept of Ed:
“The Educator Effectiveness System (24 P.S. § 11-1123 – Act 82 – 2012) is designed to evaluate classroom teachers based upon classroom observations, teacher specific data, elective data, and building level data. The building level data are used to develop the school academic performance score displayed as part of the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile. The SPP score comprises 15 percent of each classroom teacher and principal/school leader evaluation beginning with the classroom teacher rating in the 2013-2014 school year and the principal/school leader rating in the 2014-2015 school year. The score for a school is based upon indicators that define a high-performing school. Many data elements come together to create the academic score . . . ” (www.paschoolperformance.org)
The difference between a brick and mortar charter school and a cyber school is purely the delivery method. A cyber school provides instruction through the internet or through an electronic device. Cyber schools must provide a student with a computer, printer, headset/microphone and provide some assistance in obtaining and sustaining an internet connection.
As with all PUBLIC schools, charter and cyber charter schools must provide their students all services needed, including counselors, special education, state certified teachers and school nurses. The PA Department of Education also states the following in regards to extra curriculum activities for cyber schooled students:
“Students who are enrolled in a cyber charter school are eligible to participate in a school district of residence sponsored extracurricular activity if the student is able to fulfill the requirements of participation and the cyber charter school does not provide the same extracurricular activity. Cyber Charter Schools and School Districts are encouraged to communicate the requirements for participation in extracurricular activities that may include, but not be limited to, specific grades and attendance of the student. To release this information to a school district, it must first receive parent permission”.
As we circle back, it’s easy to say there are several options a family can choose for their child’s education. It’s imperative to do your research; you are no longer limited to just your local school district or a private school.