North Carolina Approves Virtual Charter School for 2015


North Carolina’s school board has agreed to allow an approximately four-year long “virtual charter school” experiment to begin in 2015, according to Emery P. Dilesio of the News & Observer.

A panel made up of North Carolina’s teacher of the year, charter school administrators and a homeschooling advocate declared that the online charter school model was too new to evaluate at this time.

The panel does not want online schools to be governed by education management organizations, which are often hired to run charter schools.Thirty states operate fully online schools that educate 310,000 full-time students, consultants who helped produce, the report said. Most are in virtual charter schools. More than one-half of those students attend online-only schools that are managed by for-profit companies.

If virtual charter schools are approved, they will be held accountable for three main objectives.

  • Decrease the number of student withdrawals from many online schools (currently 1 in 4)
  • Assure that teachers will maintain required qualifications and training
  • Keep teacher-student ratios below the norm.

In Illinois, Mike Riopel writing for the Daily Herald, reports that lawmakers are continuing a one-year moratorium on online virtual charter schools for three more years.  The reason is that the State Charter School Commission would like to have more time to set up rules concerning this new type of classroom. Some supporters of charter schools dislike this roadblock.

In Maine, the Maine Charter School Commission may or may not reconsider its rejection of the virtual charter school program in May.

Maine Learning Innovations is arguing that the commission’s reasons for denying its application were based on misunderstandings, errors or omissions from the application and interview process.

The commission had what can be called an out-of-the-ordinary glitch in procedure that may have contributed to the confusion.  The first vote, held March 3, was 4-3 in favor of the school, according to Susan McMillan for the Portland Press Herald.

In order to pass, there had to be at least five votes for the passing, or 2/3 of the panel.  On Friday, March 4, however, a commission member resigned citing illness in her family.  This left six commission members.  Now, there were enough votes to pass, but one of the “ayes” had to make a motion to do so.  The vote was delayed again when one of the pro-school voters was absent, and another said that she needed more time to study the information.

Commission members who voted against Maine Virtual Academy in March said some local board members did not seem actively involved and expressed concerns that the board could oversee the school adequately. They also noted that the company had inconsistent results in other states and couldn’t provide the commission with SAT and ACT results for its students.

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