HOW ONE CYBER SCHOOL IS GETTING IT RIGHT…
When the fierce debates in Lansing over uncapping charter and cyber schools died down, and Governor Snyder signed Senate Bills 618 and 619 into official existence, administrators and educators were left with a number of unproven choices for their schools and their students.
Charter schools and cyber schools operating in other states were experiencing problems related to charter management companies. Accountability was low, management policies were murky, student test scores were not what was promised, and education tax dollars were leaving the home states to fund the ventures of for-profit businesses headquartered elsewhere.
How could something as positive as “school choice” or “parent empowerment” go so wrong, so quickly?
The academic world has never moved swiftly, and has rarely had to ‘swim with the sharks’ in a competitive business environment. Some reformers feel that it’s time for education to step up, get quantified, provide product and run as a Fortune 500 company. Problems enter the schoolyard when commercial management companies see dollar signs instead of children, and treat parents, teachers and pupils as profiteering numbers in transitory, K-12 edu-mills.
Oakland Schools, under the leadership of Superintendent Vickie Markavitch, the OS Board of Education and District Superintendents, decided it was time to offer a better cyber school model, and worked quickly (building in success strategies aligned with accountability, transparency and quality) to offer a best practices, online cyber academy to students in Oakland, Genesee, Lapeer County, Livingston, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties.
The Virtual Learning Academy Consortium (VLAC) offers K-8 students free tuition and computers, and free, online curriculum from Calvert – along with live, certified teacher e-instruction and monitoring. VLAC, a non-profit, also returns any state monies above the actual cost of educating a cyber student back to the student’s home district. The home district is then able to supply their VLAC students with special education services, if needed, as well as elective and co-curricular opportunities.
This short video explains WHAT Oakland Schools’ leaders were thinking when they made the decision to offer students a high-quality, online learning option:
Education reform can be a challenging, uncomfortable process, but ultimately its goal should be less about profiting off gaps in the system, and more about utilizing new, quality choices to educate and benefit our children. VLAC is a bold, brave venture, and it brings the best of the ‘future’ to home-based, virtual learners today.