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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

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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