Monday, August 21, 2017

K-12 Cyber Schools: Waves of the Future

   Poor local school ratings. Interruptions & distractions. Bullying. Rude behavior. Your child's worries of social status. Fitting in. Popularity.


   Are these some of the reasons for the growth of K-12 cyber schools? Even if not, the k-12 old brick and mortar schools that we now know, might be something of the past within the next decade or two, in spite of all the "negative nelly" news that surrounds Internet schools.

  It has been said that cyber schools are the wave of the future, and not just for college. Children K-12 are enrolling in on-line schools and student growth continues to climb. Virtual schools have been around since the late 90's. Kindergarten through high school programs can take the place of your local public school, because some of them are public schools or charter schools. Best of all computers, books and materials are free for public school virtual programs.

However, online school learning has had some bad publicity.

for-profit companies are making very high returns from US educational funds
online schools are unregulated
students might cheat for better grades
students live in isolation from a social community
the pacing of curriculum is too fast
students rely on caregivers instead of certified teachers for help
students sit for most of the day

But, consider how well are our public schools doing in the news?

 U.S. trails behind other nations in science, math and language arts according to International testing scores
victims of bullying and gun shootings make national headlines
certified teachers are arrested for cheating on state tests, and worse
students sit for most of the day
many schools fare poorly on the Nation's Report Card
high school students graduate with few skills for good employment

   One of the debated issues of cyber schools is that they are not well regulated. Although public schools are supposedly regulated, one must pause to think, how well are they regulated? If public schools were truly managed well, we would not be reading about horrible social issues and bad test scores nationwide.

   Online schools may have a way to go on becoming better, but they are a very recent institution. The same can be held true for brick and mortar schools, although centuries in existence, they have a long way to go. Brick and mortar schools are also very slow to make changes for the better. Local schools are either (a) making so many yearly changes no person can keep up with them, or (b) no changes are being made that could make a significant difference to benefit students. One middle teacher with 30 years of experience commented to me, a few years ago, " This whole educational system needs to be revamped!".

How does cyber school typically work?

   Oftentimes, a caregiver is present during instructional time to keep the student on task and to assist them in going over assignments, and ask the learner questions regarding his or her work. In some virtual schools, a teacher frequently checks in and monitors student understanding. The honor system is used for all assignments, test, quizzes and portfolio items. This means your learner must do his or her own work, just like a brick and mortar school, or face the consequences of expulsion or failure. Software programs such as, Turn It In, checks for plagiarism.

   Materials such as computers, books, workbooks, art materials, CD's, and science experiment materials are sent directly to your home free of charge. Learners work at a desk, sit or stand at a table and access a "to do" list each day for assignments to complete. Students might attend live instructional broadcasts, watch learning videos, study, attend field trips and work at their own pace during the day. Online school is not for everyone as it requires substantial independent work.

   But, this relatively new Internet institution can learn to improve by... consumer choice, of course. Cyber schools rely on student numbers to grow in profits. There are many virtual schools to choose from. So, advancements must be made if online schools are going to continue to increase in funding. Cyber schools will eventually need to achieve good ratings and be exemplar, state of the art schools.

  Then, consider your local public school. Are government funds dispersed? Are big salaries paid? Do great improvements for all students rarely occur? If you have said yes to all three, a big change is needed or expect the status quo. Changes might happen only when too much funding is relayed to cyber schools, and brick and mortar pupils are at record enrollment lows. And...all of this might happen in the not so distant future.

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