Are Pennsylvania’s public cyber charter schools free? That is one of the most pressing and popular questions that we hear every day. In fact, that single question has gripped school districts, local news media outlets, countless school advocacy organizations, and has extended all the way to the hallowed halls of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.
When speaking with parents, this is one of the most common questions we hear. In short, the answer is no, virtual learning is not a substitute to brick and mortar schools; virtual learning is an alternative. In some cases it can be a superior form of education – for the right student, if you choose the right school. There are certain advantages which virtual schools offer that traditional schools do not.
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At PA Virtual, we offer both asynchronous and synchronous learning models for our students based on their academic performance, learning style, and need for academic support and socialization. So, what does that mean and how are they different?
A deeper look into the nationally recognized curriculum used by PA Virtual PA Virtual challenges students each day in a flexible online learning environment from the comfort of their own homes. How does a school connect students from across the state and ensure their academic needs are met? Our state-certified teachers guide students through their studies using the nationally recognized K12, Inc. curriculum that aligns with the PA Core Standards set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. PA Virtual teachers deliver these online courses to students in each grade at every level of learning. Teachers use their creativity to individualize lesson plans based on the needs of students in the virtual classroom. PA Virtual has used K12, Inc. as the source for curriculum since its inception in 2001. Nationally, the curriculum aligns with the Common Core, however the PA Core Standards are slightly different. Parents may find “PA Only” lessons or supplements provided by K12, Inc. or teachers during the course of the school year.
For the first time in PA Virtual’s history, we have hired one of our alumni as a teacher! Former student Sigrid Gulbis was hired this past summer as a High School Math Academic Support Teacher. Ms. Gulbis entered the first grade during PA Virtual’s second year in business and graduated four years ago. This past May, Gulbis graduated Summa Cum Laude from DeSales University with a bachelor’s of science in math. “It’s interesting to see many teachers who instructed me are still at the school and now are my coworkers,” Gulbis said.
During the 2018-2019 school year, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is introducing a new school assessment tool, the Future Ready Index. This new tool is designed to take a more comprehensive look at individual students; assessing their unique needs and abilities, measuring their year over year growth, and determining if schools are truly preparing Pennsylvania’s students for long term success. While in the past, great schools were measured almost exclusively by standardized test scores, the new Future Ready Index will take multiple criteria into consideration including how a student performs over several years as well as whether a school is providing opportunities for exploring career pathways and college options.