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School Director: Cyber Charter Schools Failing to Make the Grade

"In summary, the performance of the cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania has been a disaster," Canon-McMillan School Director Joseph M. Zupancic writes.

Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued its formal report noting which schools had made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the previous year (2012). Although the press covered this report for traditional public schools, the coverage of the performance of Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools was lacking.

Since cyber charter schools are funded entirely through the same tax dollars as our public schools, an analysis of their results is appropriate.

In summary, the performance of the cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania has been a disaster.

Of the 12 cyber charter schools that have been approved by the Pennsylvania
Department of Education only one, 21st Century Cyber, made AYP. The other 11 schools (91.7 percent) failed to meet the standard established by the state for the proper instruction of our children.

Our tax dollars should not go to a system that is failing to educate our children at this alarming rate.

Unfortunately, the story gets much worse. Although the AYP numbers are going down across the board due to a narrowing of the goalposts (to an impossibly high level of 100 percent in 2014), the performance of the cyber charter schools is just as bad in past years when the standard was much easier to meet.

How bad is the performance of the taxpayer-funded cyber charter schools?

Of the 12 state-approved cyber charter schools, only three (21st Century Cyber, Pa Cyber and Central Pennsylvania Digital Learning Foundation) have ever met a yearly AYP threshold.

Nine of the 12 cyber charter schools have never met AYP—not even for a single year (cyber charter schools have been in existence for eight years).

Someone should probably ask Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis why the state, as the chartering entity, has not taken action to revoke the charter of
the cyber charter schools that have never made AYP once in their existence.

When a traditional public school shows this level of ineptitude, taxpayers are appropriately outraged and demand accountability. Pennsylvania’s failing cyber charter schools should not get a free pass.

Joseph M. Zupancic, Director
Canon-McMillan Board of School Directors

Mo October 10, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Cyber charter schools have been around longer than 8 years. Please check your facts before you make other statements as well. It seems to me that if the piblic schools were effectively educating then the charter schools would naturally be out of business. On another note, cyber schools only recieve a portion of the money allotted to a child in a cyber school. The districts allotment for the children attending their school is not adversly affected. Districts also get to KEEP ALL the tax funding for traditionally homescholed children.
Kristen Jones October 10, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Unfortunately, there may be a thread of truth to Mr. Zupancic's comments, however, it is not correct in response to PA CYBER. The educational standards are much higher than what would be expected at the brick and mortar level of Canon Mac. Maybe if he looked further in depth as to the curriculum and what a home schooled child actually learned during the school year he would change his position. My husband and I are very pleased with the education that our children are getting not to mention their excelled progress with PA CYBER. I do not believe that they would have the same opportunity in a regular school district. I feel that it is unfair to make comments about a particular subject simply from reading data sheets. Mr. Zupancic may be better served to check his facts before making these broad based accusations. I would put my home schooled children up against a Canon Mac child of the same age any day and know that they would come out on top.
PA Cyber Parent October 10, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Dear Joseph M. Zupancic, PA Cyber has provided my high school aged daughter a far better education than she was receiving in our local public school system. The teachers in our public school were quick to complain to the principal when my daughter was working ahead in their curriculum because she was not being challenged. Public school teachers complained that this was causing them more "work". PA Cyber staff and teachers are doing an excellent job of taking care of our children's educational needs. Furthermore, Mr. Zupancic, making generalized statements like "In summary, the performance of the cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania has been a disaster." would typically be refrained from by a highly educated person like yourself. False truths are not a great reflection on your character.
Darla Batch October 11, 2012 at 01:29 AM
I found his comments to be refreshing. Mo is actually wrong. 100% of the cost of the district's tuition goes to the charter schools. The state closes schools and sends students to other districts when public schools post scores similar to what these cybers are putting out, but since the cyber are bringing in huge profits to these CEOs who run them...our Governor and his legislative supporters look the other way. Follow the money from these charters to their campaign contributions and you will see why the politicians are looking the other way.
Amanda Gillooly October 11, 2012 at 01:44 AM
No personal attacks on the site. That is why one of the comments on this thread was deleted. Thanks for all the comments - please try to keep it civil! Many thanks!!
Melissa October 11, 2012 at 11:33 AM
I do understand what is happening all around us and to put on a website about how cyber schools are not doing their job is not right either. When in a public school system I called the Dept. Of Education Consult Line. My handicap children were harrassed and denied appropriate services on a daily basis. I had them on speed dial because of the all the incidents the kids were telling me about. I want to go to Harrisburg and show my support but things happen ALL the time.....car not running right and /or someone not feeling well. I support PACYBER because they are taking care of my children. My oldest came home from sixth grade with a bruise on her face then in high school someone jabbed a pencil into her leg. My other daughter experienced disability harrasement while in third grade. My son was bullied about his inabilities and started to deep mental health issues. I had phone numbers and doctors ready for them to talk to but not once did the public school system acknowlege the person who offered that. ALL this stuff got me to come to a scary place and suicidal. I need to be alive for them and by going through that H*LL it won't be possible. I deal with the back and worth of why EVERY day . I feel the need to protect their lives for them to have a future.
B. Zechman October 11, 2012 at 12:12 PM
For six years I attended two parent teacher conferences a year to hear "your daughter is so sweet and such a wonderful kid, but she is so far ahead we don't know what to do for her." I KNOW she is sweet and well behaved, that is my job, their job was to educate her and they weren't. She spent most of her school days reading while the teacher helped the other students get on level. They teach directly to the PSSA tests with little focus on anything else. The district moved the first day of school up by several weeks this year and actually stated in the local paper that was so they could have more time in class prior to taking those exams. When my younger child was to start kindergarten the school deteriorated even more and I was simply not confident that they were making decisions with our children's best interest in mind. I made the decision to cyber school my children because our school district was no longer providing the best education out there and someone else is. Instead of bashing the school and the parents who have made the choice to pull our children from our home districts, maybe the school administrators should research the reason for these choices. Parents have options now, we don't have to suffer in silence while our children are receiving a cut rate education due to lack of options. After all, cyber school was created to challenge public schools to do better.
B. Zechman October 11, 2012 at 12:14 PM
I feel more people should cyber school, not less.
H Meeks October 11, 2012 at 12:51 PM
As a parent of 3 PACYBER students for the last 4 years I find Mr. Zupancic's article to be ill-informed, bias and down right dangerous to our freedom of choice as parents to educate and raise our children to the best of our abilities. My oldest son and I were just discussing yesterday (for a paper he had to write on an experience that has changed his life) the advantages of cyber schooling. He has learned far more in PA Cyber the last four years than he learned in his brick and mortar school and I remember how ill prepared he was in 5th grade at PA Cyber because the school he had been attending had NOT TAUGHT him! Along with the fact that he can move at his own pace, move ahead (he is now taking 2 9th grade courses in 8th grade) when he needs challenge and has more options available to him,the social safety is another bonus. I see what is going on in our public schools and I personally do not want my children spending their days in an atmosphere where they are subject to bullying, daycare centers in high schools, where they are left to teach themselves, or fill there time because so much of the teachers time is spent disciplining children that aren't disciplined at home. I realize that not all schools are like this, and there are a lot of public school teachers who truly care about the education of our children, but for those of us who choose cyber school, it needs to remain a valid option. I have seen the test scores, and I know my children are well educated at PACYBER
Jackie October 11, 2012 at 01:36 PM
As a cyber school parent, I agree that if my local school district was providing the education that I deem not only preferable, but necessary, my son would still be in that local public school. As a teacher myself, I was never an advocate of homeschooling or cyberschooling until I saw firsthand what went on in our school district. Also, as a mother of a child with a chronic medical condition who had to deal with that district as an advocate for my child, I saw a side of school officials and administrators that I no longer wanted any part of. I finally realized that at the bottom of it all was the need for my children to have the best education possible and it is my duty to be sure they get that. That is why I chose PA Cyber. Mr. Zupancic, I know your information is incorrect. I've done my homework and I know PA Cyber's standing and credibility so I don't need to hash numbers and ratings here. But what I would like to say to you is, shame on you! As a district official, you should be ashamed of yourself for putting forth such nonsense and inaccurate information. You have a duty to, not only your district, but to education in general to be an advocate for our children and all you've managed to do is spread lies. Cyberschooling is a viable and at times necessary choice for educating our children and I, among countless others, am thankful I have that choice!
A L B October 11, 2012 at 02:24 PM
My daughter had always struggled in school but when I asked to hold her back, they always wanted to wait until the next year. Then in 2nd grade she started making straight A's. I was confused because when it came time for homework it would take my 7 year old 4 hours to complete just a few pages. I thought, the school knew what it was going. Then came 3rd grade, and she had all D's! Obviously the school hadn't provided a good education. I pulled her mid-year. Now she is with PACyber and her test scores are great but also she is just a more educated child in this world. I also want to say that homeschooling is NOT easy. My whole day has to be scheduled around my daughter, and I work evenings. She has online teachers but I still need to do a lot of work to keep her home classroom organized. The reason parents are choosing charter schools over their home district is because of different reasons, but there is a reason. As a community we should just want educated children and I don't think patents would choose a charter school if it wasn't up to par.
Christine Emmick October 11, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Did you correct the title to "School Director:"? If so, thank you editor! It better represents the position this "writer" is coming from. If schools were safe places to grow and learn, we wouldn't need cybers. If you could provide individualized instruction, we wouldn't need cybers. If you could provide excellerated instruction, we wouldn't need cybers. If you could provide special education designed to limit health risks, we wouldn't need cybers. You cannot be all things to all students. Let students go where they learn best. It's NOT your district's money, it's my child's.
Rebecca Boyles October 11, 2012 at 08:49 PM
It is nice to see so many PA Cyber parents commenting. For most of us, there was more than one reason we pulled our children out of traditional brick and mortar schools. Bullying, lack of advanced education, lack of teacher care, lack of respect for a child's values, health reasons, the list goes on. It IS a lot of work for the parent/teacher/guide, but we, unlike a great portion (not all) of traditional teachers, feel that every stress and strain is worth it for our child's education. In traditional school, my daughter was told, "No, I'm sorry, those books aren't for your grade-level", and the teacher and/or librarian would point her towards books with 6 pages and 10 words per page. She, I, and her father would try to explain to the teacher that she was reading "5th grade" books, in 1st grade. We were told, basically, that it wasn't THEIR problem that she was advanced, that she would just have to "figure out how to deal with it." It's responses like that, and Mr. Zupancic's shameful generalizations, that make us grateful that we have the cyber-school choice.
Jenifer Morrison October 13, 2012 at 04:13 PM
I would simply like to point out that as a school director, Mr. Zupancic should be aware that only a percentage of the public schools funds go to the cyber charter. In addition, it is much harder for cyber charters to make AYP as they are graded as 1 school while the districts are broken down in to many schools and groups, which allows the districts to make AYP as a whole when the cyber would not. A simple google search would reveal all of these points for anyone who would like to learn the truth.

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