It is no secret that the education establishment is threatened by competition, innovation, and change. School choice advocates have been fighting this 400 pound elephant for years. Once again, a battle is brewing in North Carolina, pushed by - you guessed it - the education establishment. The Kannapolis Board of Education is preparing to join litigation contesting a judge's decision to grant a charter for an online charter school, set to open in August in Cabarrus County. The Kannapolis Board of Education, utilizing the same stale argument and tired talking points peddled across the country by the education establishment, claims there are "too many unknowns" regarding online learning.
In a story featured in the Salisbury Post, Board Chairwoman Danita Rickard makes many false (and laughable) claims to support her argument against online learning. Below are just a few of the misconceptions. Please note that not once was parent or student interviewed in the story.
Misconception: "I want to know if the children will be learning anything. ... They do not have to be tested and meet the same standards as traditional public schools"
Reality: Online learning is not the Wild West. Online public schools are public schools and are held to state requirements, just like brick-and-mortar public schools. Also, online students learn just as much, if not more than their traditional school counterparts. According to a recent study conducted by Marty Leuken and Gary Ritter from the University of Arkansas, online students at Arkansas Virtual Academy (ARVA) improved significantly compared to their peers in traditional public school in one year. The study found that the average ARVA student jumped from the 47th percentile to the 57th percentile in math and from the 53rd percentile to the 57th in literacy.
Like many online schools across the country, the chartering district, in this case Cabarrus County, along with the North Carolina State Board of Education (SBE), would hold the North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA) accountable for student learning. Cabarrus County Schools and the SBE would hold NCVA accountable for all necessary training related to the opening and operation of the charter school. The district and SBE would also hold NCVA accountable for providing services to exceptional children, and ensuring the school complies with health and safety standards, audits, disciplinary procedures, and lottery implementation. NCVA would also be responsible for conducting employee background checks and ensuring the school's teachers are properly licensed.
Misconception: "It will certainly take away funds from the public schools"
Reality: Students are more than just dollar bills walking around a school. Schools need to be focused on delivering results, not their bottom line. Students should not be locked into attending a school that continuously fails to meet their needs. Students deserve an education the best prepares them for successful future. If an online school is best for them, they should be free to attend.
Misconception: "I feel like this is just knocking down the foundation of public education, causing it to crumble"
Reality: As stated in the reality check above, students should have the right to attend the school of their choice. No two children are the same. There is no one way of learning that fulfills the needs of all students. Online learning provides a customized educational experience, meeting individual academic needs. Online programs such as NCVA allow students to receive a well-rounded education, something many cash-strapped districts are unable to do. Without the cost of transportation and facilities, the schools are able to provide students with greater opportunities to take foreign language and Advanced Placement courses.