The whole idea of taking a course while perched in front of a computer is, admittedly, a little alien to those who spent their primary and secondary educations in classrooms where they could directly interact with a teacher a few feet away.
But in our wired world, more students are retreating to computer-based charterschools, which have drained students and taxpayer dollars away from traditional classrooms. Under Pennsylvania law, if a student decamps to a charter or cyberschool, his per-pupil state funding goes with him. That’s the case even if the school is based in, say, California. Another sore point for educators is that these online schools often operate under a looser set of mandates than traditional schools do.
Rather than trying to beat cyberschools, however, three area school districts have decided to join them.
In a move not unlike the bookseller Barnes & Noble setting up its own online retail site to compete with the Amazon.com behemoth, the Washington, Trinity and Western Beaver school districts are forming a partnership they’re calling the Collaborative Online Academy, which will allow students in their districts to be cyberschooled while keeping per-pupil funding within the district.
The three districts also are getting a $176,000 boost for the effort from the Pittsburgh-based Grable Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping young people and schools. According to a story in Tuesday’s Observer-Reporter, the three districts are promising a quality education at a lower cost than a typical charter school.
Another advantage: if students decide to return to the regular classroom, it will be a more seamless transition. As Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Roberta DiLorenzo pointed out, “Even if they’re doing cyber at home, they’re still doing it with our teachers.”
The vast technological and social upheaval brought about by the interconnectedness of the World Wide Web can be discomfiting, but the world inexorably marches on. It’s good to see that these three school districts are marching along with it.