Government Approval ? the Ultimate Measure of a Virtual School?
Edspresso links to this essay by Hope Frick, a virtual school student in Pennsylvania. She’s written an articulate explanation of why she chose to attend a virtual academy. You have to sympathize with her frustration at the responses she gets when she tells people about her school. Frick is absolutely right that online high schools should be accepted as mainstream.
There is one thing that bothers me about the essay. I’ve highlighted it in the following quote:
Approved by the state, cyber schools enable students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade to gain a public school education from their homes.
Frick refers several times to state approval and regulation, implying that government involvement is key to virtual schools’ success. Now, it’s true that many good online schools are run by states or strictly regulated, but states are closely involved with public brick-and-mortar schools, too — and the results aren’t always stellar. That’s not to say that they’re all bad, just that there’s a lot of variation, despite the government authorization they have in common. We have to conclude that factors other than state approval cause the difference in outcomes.
The real test of a school’s quality, be it online or brick-and-mortar, is whether students learn from it and parents are satisfied. Given that thousands of students voluntarily choose virtual schools over other options, I’d say they’re doing well by those measures.