If you don't live in the Orlando area, you might not have seen the recent article published by Julie Young on how virtual schools are changing education--Young is the president and CEO of Florida Virtual Sschool. It was an interesting article for many reasons, but I'd like to highlight a few specific items discussed by Young.
The point of the article was to combat a recent headline out of a Washington-based news outlet that stated "Cyber schools flunk, but the money keeps flowing." Young's defense, in generality, was that "Virtual schools are as varied in their approach and their results as are traditional schools" so if one cyber school "flunks" their students but continues to receive funding, don't assume the same events are taking place in every other cyber school. To this I respond with a resounding, Amen!, just as any other Christian school headmaster or principal would because blanket statements are always (no pun intended) incorrect on some level.
But from there she and I go from being on the same page, to Young proving why a virtual school like SBACS VA that offers accountability, Biblical integration, Christian teachers, and academically rigorous courses is a much better option [especially for Christian schools] than a public [free] option like FLVS. Her defense is that 1. FLVS doesn't flunk and 2. FLVS doesn't get money unless their students succeed. According to Young, their "reimbursement from the state is dependent on their [student] success in their coursework." This system of only-receiving-funding-if-students-pass brings up a separate issue that is all-too common within government funded schools--higher test scores=more money. And as most of you are aware, money is a dangerous motivator.
We all know that there are different levels of learners and that a virtual classroom is not the right environment for everyone so varying levels of success are to be expected. But when teachers are put under a certain pressure to have students with passing grades in order to keep making a paycheck (or at least for the school to continue to receive funding), one has to wonder what morals and ethics are at risk of being called into question. It's a dangerous line to walk.
To be fair, we do believe that the FLVS curriculum has a good base--I mean, the Sevenstar curriculum that SBACS Virtual Academy re-sells used a combination of a number of public school curriculums to form its course base before improving upon it. ...and Young does provide that "in the 2012-13 school year, FLVS part-time students performed higher than the state average on all four state-created end-of-course exams"...but the real question comes down to motivation.
The courses that SBACS offers are not only academically challenging but are taught by Christian teachers and include Biblical integration. Student success in the course is absolutely a goal but the teachers also care about the student's heart as well as their eternal destiny. The mission of SBACS Virtual Academy & Sevenstar goes hand-in-hand with the mission of most Christian schools--promoting kingdom education. Rather than the regurgitation of facts, our teachers focus on helping students apply what they've learned all through the lens of the gospel.
So while statistics and numbers are important and student success is an important goal, our Christian cyber classroom is not funded based on the number of A's our students make or their standardized test scores. The accountability and teaching that students receive comes from a teacher who is enthusiastic about their subject area and genuinely cares about the student's heart. Who can put a number on that?
You can read the full article by Julie Young here: Virtual Schools are Changing Education