Virtually unvetted

A decade later, Pennsylvania cyber schools go viral, by Devon Lash, The Morning Call, August 21, 2010

Cyber schools present myriad opportunities: Lower overhead costs, personalized instruction, and greater efficiency. Yet all those things are only as good as they are done well. And often they are not, it seems, at least in Pennsylvania. More than 23,000 students attend virtual schools full time in the Keystone State, one of the country’s highest enrollments. Yet most of those schools are failing to meet state standards. Of Pennsylvania’s eleven digital academies, five are in corrective action and five are “making progress,” while just one can show adequate yearly progress four years in a row. Thanks to the many lessons of the charter school boom, our vision here should be 20/20, if not 20/15: Innovative approaches to schooling that lower costs and give students more options should be lauded, but quality won’t magically happen by itself. Smart oversight and policies are needed, pronto. The virtual movement is exiting its infancy; now would be a great time to take on the quality-control challenge.

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