The Question of Online Charter Schools in Portland (by Guest Blogger Amanda House)

onlinelearningWe have discussed the standard types of education, public schools, private schools, and charter schools. During class readings I saw the subject of online charter schools come up only once but it caught my attention. Online charter schools offer classes fully online for students in k-12 grade levels and can be funded by tax dollars directed towards education. Like other charter schools the online versions are publicly funded and many focus on students from specific demographics. State and local school boards have control over them but they are still a relatively new trend and have instability issues like many newer charter schools. The idea behind online learning has many pros and cons and limit the type of students attaining their education in this format.

One of the major issues that was brought up by Rep. Michael Dembrow, a Portland Democrat, is the chance for private companies to make a great deal of money from public education dollars. Though they are regulated they have a great amount of flexibility because its hard for state and local school boards to keep a close eye on the programs. This article outlines the 4 types of online High schools options for students:http://distancelearn.about.com/od/virtualhighschools/a/HS_Types.htm

Some of the pros to online education would be the flexibility in pace for students who have issues with boredom because the material moves to slowly for them. Other life events such as medical issues or extended illness that keep students from attending class regularly can benefit from the flexible schedule and location.  Students who have been bullied or struggled to keep up in a traditional setting can focus just on school instead of the social aspects of public school.  Parents don’t have to be actively participating in their students education as they would in a home school setting so students have the benefit of lesson plans, homework, and grading that’s done by teachers and school staff rather than parents. Oregon’s Online Learning Policy “Requires that at least 95% of instructional hours be taught by Oregon-licensed teachers”. Some online lessons include instructional videos that a student can watch and re-watch as needed.

Though I see the point of online learning and its popular for some college courses I feel the challenges and limitations with using this system for k-12 students out way the benefits for now. There doesn’t seem to be much outside accountability for students and setting your own pace could mean going to slow for some students. Some articles mentioned that some students were given resources such as a computer to use but it would still exclude families without internet connections or parents who held a child accountable for getting their work completed. Another important aspect of school is the socialization of children. Without school days filled with other classmates and social activities students would need parents or guardians to have them enrolled in after school activities or social events in their community. Not all parents have the time or income to get these needs covered for their child. Another major issues with charter schools and especially the online setting would be how to provide access to all students, especially those with disabilities.

Questions:

  • Would the online style of education minimize a students learning of daily structure and accountability to authority such as teachers and principals that is essential for preparing them for later life?
  • Should public school dollars be spent to fund online education for students?
  • Are instructional videos as informative and helpful as in class lecture? What are the benefits of video lessons?
  • Would the flexibility of online charter schools benefit students in specific demographics more than others?  Examples: teen parents, drop outs, honor students bored with standard pace.

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16 thoughts on “The Question of Online Charter Schools in Portland (by Guest Blogger Amanda House)

  1. Hey Amanda,

    This is an excellent post in regards to the benefits and implications are of online charter schools. From my personal experience, I’ve met some friends many years ago and they went through a online school system of being homeschooled. Not to be stereotypical, but I often felt that students who chose this route are intelligent…yet they lack in social skills of what it’s like to engage with groups, experience conflict, or how they conduct themselves in classroom settings. While I don’t think this applies to everyone in the online school system, I do see how online schooling is effective. I think that online schooling can definitely become more flexible so that students are able to focus on other activities or pursuits that they may have. It might be more affordable and cheaper to run as well as easier to facilitate from a teacher standpoint. However, are we creating a system that might not actually benefit students in the long run? Perhaps when it comes to group work online, they may do tremendously, but they may have greater difficulty with working in groups of people face to face, communicating effectively with verbal and nonverbal cues, as well as a myriad of other contributing factors.

    Of course, the values we have been discussing about have been about our values of education and how one of our values is that students and families should have the option to choose their way of education. But is choosing sometimes really the benefactor to an education? For some families that don’t have the option to choose and instead go to a public school in their district, private schooling, or public charter, how are we giving them choices? How do we find a balance between what we can choose as well as what we need to instill as kind of a “standard” to our nation’s education?

    Thank you for reading,

    Janice N

  2. I feel like it would be hard to figure out where the money actually goes and if the online charter school is actually legit. During our group discussion on Monday Kristin brought up an article about a somewhat local, (Marion County) charter school that was a fraud. The two men that ran the school lied about how many children were actually attending the school, among other things. This is a great example of how easy it is to scam the system. Who would monitor the online school? How would we know (as parents) whether the money from the state was actually going to the online school? Here is the link for the article… food for thought. 🙂
    http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2013/01/oregon_charter_school_founders.html

    When it comes to the pros and cons of doing online school, I found it to be somewhat even. But for me personally, I wouldn’t want my children doing online school only. When children go to school, they learn valuable things, make personal connections, and form long-lasting relationships. Not to mention that you actually look at a person when you are learning. I feel that missing out on those things would severely hinder a child’s normal learning process and development.

    • Nicole,

      I agree with you on the facts that I would not want my children to only do online school for an education. At times it was difficult for me in college to commit to an online class because of the flexibility of the course. Procrastination was an issue and I don’t see how this wouldn’t apply to K-12 students as well. As you said, even looking at the person that is teaching you goes a long way in education. I believe that student-teacher interactions are very important and provide many skills tat are useful for everyday life.

  3. Your last question is raises a point that I thought about as soon as I read this article heading, and that is the benefits of online schooling for teen parents. Where I went to school, at the time I graduated there were 17 girls pregnant. There were only about 600 students in the entire school, so percentage-wise that’s pretty high. And that number does not include the girls who had already had children in the four years I attended, which off the top of my head was another ten students at least. Of all these girls, I saw one graduate while pregnant and one return to the school after having a baby her sophomore year. There is no online option for the ones who don’t return, so their formal education pretty much stops at the time they get pregnant, on average at about 16 years old. Then they go on to raise their children working in low-level, low-paying jobs that hardly support their needs, thus perpetuating this cycle of poverty and hardship. I knew a lot of these girls personally, and they were not unintelligent nor were they lazy. The opportunities just weren’t there for them. An online charter school could have made a huge difference for them and especially for their children.
    That being said, I’m not sure I support and online model for just any student. I very much believe that in a school setting the social skills students learn are every bit as important as the curriculum. Taking a child out of school because they’re not being challenged or they are being bullied does not solve those problems. Isolating them from their peers and not enforcing what are already probably lacking social skills does not set them up for future success. If a student excels in a subject, why not set them up with an additional online course they can do at their own pace, outside of but along with the public school education? If a student is being bullied, why not set them up with a counselor or maybe even an extra course online to help them with self-esteem and self-advocacy? I just worry that fully online schools don’t provide students with everything they need for future success. School is about a lot more than just seat time.

    • Katie,
      Very well said!! I couldn’t have done a better job. I really took into consideration about teen parents, and the opportunity would be great for them to continue their education as long as they were out of the physical school setting. I also agree with you about just having online charter schools available for certain children. They all need to know how to socialize with others, as well as trying to find out how to solve social problems (bullying), either with the help of school staff, counselors, teachers, or even other kids joining in the cause of ending bullying, or stand up to it if they see it.
      Lisa

    • Katie,
      I agree with you that online classes would be a valuable option for students such as teen moms. Just because they have had a baby doesn’t mean they should be given up on. Not that I think they deserve any more special treatment than other students, but I do think that they should be given support in their situations. At my high school there were also quite a few girls who had babies, and a lot of them ended up going to an alternative school in our district called Merlo Station, that offered flexible scheduling options and online classes as part of a specialized program (http://www.beaverton.k12.or.us/home/schools/merlo-community-school/).
      I also agree with you that online courses are not for everyone. The social skills factor is huge. Having taken online classes in college, I also think the educational and learning experience is much less in-depth than in a classroom and interactive setting. I believe it is way too easy for students to do the bare minimum in these courses, and to get away with finding a way around doing most of the work. Although there is some form of communication with a teacher, I also don’t think it comes close to the experience of daily interaction with one in a classroom.

      • I like that optional model for certain cases, my hometown didn’t have anything like that, which is really sad for those who need it. I suppose this is the balance we need to find between both models of schooling.

    • I agree that schools are about a lot more than just seat time. In one of my other classes we discussed how the schools have taken over a large part of the socialization aspects of raising children. I think that growing up with the structure of going to class each day at a specific time and being required to follow the rules of the classroom and school really provide necessary skills for later life. I struggle with procrastination and online settings make it easier for me to put things off until the last minute. I really think that online education can be useful in some situations and for some students but the balance of online work with socialization with peers would be essential. I think the lack of accountability and ways to monitor if a student is really doing their own work would be a challenge.

    • Katie,

      Your statement, “Isolating them (students) from their peers and not enforcing what are already probably lacking social skills does not set them up for future success” is one that I feel to be very significant. The world that we live in today seems to place a great deal of importance on communication and social composure. This can be argued, I know, but for the sake of discussion I’m sticking to it. Online charter schools can be a life-saving option to those who need it (ex. pregnant teens as you were mentioning). However, I think it needs to be just that; an option for those who need it. There are many reasons for students to choose online charter schooling, but the issue as you mentioned is the setbacks that may very well come with that. Eliminating social interraction with peers of the same age from everyday life can be crippling. I would guess that we can all think of someone who was home homeschooled and simply lacks social skills. If we want to discusses setbacks in education, I would say this may be one of the most significant in terms of future development. How you interact, handle conflict, listen, and respond is and will continue to be noticed. We need to be sure we are not hindering students in that way.

      Your post was very well written.

      Zach

  4. Hey Amanda,
    Great post! You bring up a lot of interesting points and questions. In my opinion, high school students shouldn’t be offered online classes/ an online education. Traditionally, high school students aren’t working 40 plus hours a week, supporting children, or themselves. Online classes/education are there to cater to the working person or parent, or those trying to receive a higher education to better their career options. I think online classes/education should stay limited to those in college.
    In regards to your question about instructional videos vs. lecture, I don’t think instructional videos are as informative or helpful. I understand why people would prefer videos to class lectures because the student would have the ability to re-watch the lecture. However, I think there is something to be said about a student taking notes with a pen and a piece of paper. It requires them to have accountability for what they are learning and to be present.
    Thanks!
    Madison

    • Accountability is a big factor too, I totally agree with you. I’ve taken online classes here where I never did the readings and nobody could tell. In a face-to-face class, if you get asked a question about the book it’s obvious in no time if you didn’t read. I guess that kind of borders on the shame thing, but I think it keeps students on their toes!
      Katie

  5. Amanda,

    I have always wondered how students that are home schooled do academically when compared to students that are in public school. I wonder if the isolated help from a parent was more beneficial to the student than hurtful or if the increased attention resulted in better overall performance. On the other hand I wonder how students that are home schooled do socially as well. As you mentioned the Socialization of the student would be different and the need of after school activities or social events would be needed for the student to interact with other kids and have that socialization. This was one of the issues with online school you presented in your post that I think is perhaps the biggest issue with online schooling. I also believe that the impersonal interaction with the teacher for the student would be an obstacle for the student. In my experience in college with online classes, it was difficult at many points during the term to ask any questions I had of the teacher and I had to wait at least a day or two to receive a response to my questions. I think this could be problematic for student – teacher connection and prove to be more hurtful than beneficial.

    • I agree with a lot of this, specifically the socialization aspect but not necessarily just for the social health of the students but also because I feel like face to face interaction can be one of the most underrated aspects of an education. I absolutely despised public school and dropped out of high school despite not being traditionally “at-risk,” in fact I was in honors classes and an active member of the debate team. I hated it and eventually left because it was boring and patronizing, I saw school as a place where I had to sit and listen to someone just as bored as me tell me about things they didn’t care about. I don’t remember more than a handful of classes that actually demanded my engagement or gave me a chance to actively participate, something that most college classes seem to be a lot better about making them infinitely more compelling. I am very concerned for kids that choose online classes who may not know, just as I didn’t know, that an active and engaging classroom where they are allowed and encouraged to participate is even an option. The further we get from having kids investing in the way they are forced to spend their time the less likely we are to convince them that education is something they should choose to spend their time on once they are given the choice.

  6. Amanda,

    I believe that online educational options are a great way to give students more freedom from a strict daily school schedule, especially to those who would need it, like the examples you stated, teen parents, drop-outs, and honors students. However, I do not know how beneficial they would be for those students K-12. Like Oscar stated, in online classes I have procrastination problems, although the freedom from a strict schedule is ideal. How would these younger students stay on task? Do their parents have to be present the whole time in order to make sure the student is staying on task and keeping up with the curriculum? Could this much freedom be detrimental to those students who have low self-discipline?

    • This is definitely one of the best things that online classes can offer. As far as I can tell from personal experience the online option has opened tons of doors in community colleges as well as traditional four-year colleges that people thought were closed previously simply because of the time commitment. I have known plenty of people that are willing to give up the twenty or thirty free hours they may have had at the end of the nights or on the weekends in order to pursue their education because finally being somewhere at a specific time wasn’t a hinderance anymore. I think it is still going to be difficult to convince most teenagers that it is a good or feasible option for them, let alone dealing with the difficulties of time management that everyone faces but it almost certainly has to help at least a few of them and that seems like it makes it worth it alone.

  7. Amanda,

    I think you’re right, one of the most concerning things about the online approach is the accountability. Who is to keep students on track? As I sit here writing this post at 10:30 pm, closing in on an hour before it’s ‘due’, I must agree that the flexibility of online schooling is important. Life happens. For those with disabilities or other extended issues, online classes can be an incredibly favored alternative. However, I worry that for younger students (K-12), granting them freedom to complete coursework as they please could potentially lead to more harm them good. Let me reiterate, this a concern, not an assumption.

    In terms of online videos, I will suggest that they are just as informative as in class lecture, and in may cases more helpful. I rely on online tutorials often to relearn or gain further understanding of concepts in my biology and chemistry courses. Why? They are slow, direct, generally easy to follow, and can be replayed. They are something that I would suggest for all students as form of supplemental learning, but they are not necessarily a replacement for being in a class. There are many things such as social interaction and communication that cannot be taught from a computer chair. Just some of my thoughts on the issue.

    This was a great post, thanks for sharing.

    Zach

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