Supporters of North Carolina Connections Academy, a proposed virtual charter school, will hold information sessions in Charlotte and Monroe on Wednesday.
The virtual school is one of 170 that filed letters of intent in September to apply for permission to open in 2015-16. By Dec. 6 we'll see how many follow through with a detailed application that could lead to being approved as an alternative public school.
Traditional public schools already offer online classes through N.C. Virtual Public School, but there's teacher supervision and some required seat time. The proposed statewide charter school, which would be part of the Maryland-based for-profit Connections Academy chain, would use individual learning plans created with a teacher. Students then learn from home, with parents as "learning coaches." The approach is pitched as especially good for students who are far ahead of or behind classmates and can thrive on the individual approach.
The in-person information sessions will be from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Hampton Inn Monroe, 2368 Roland Drive, and from 6-8 p.m. at the Charlotte Mariott SouthPark, 2200 Rexford Road. There's also a video explaining how Connections Academy works.
Virtual charter schools have sparked debate across the country. A study by the University of Colorado's National Education Policy Center found that students in cyberschools led by K12, a different for-profit chain, didn't perform as well as counterparts in more traditional schools. In Charlotte, Superintendent Heath Morrison has raised questions about such schools, saying he wants Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to create its own virtual schools to ensure quality.
Connections Academy is a spinoff from Sylvan Learning tutoring company, according to its website. There are academies in 22 states, including South Carolina, and Connections Education was launched in 2011 to further expand the online schools.
"In Fall 2011, Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, acquired Connections Education establishing a leading position in the fast-growing virtual school segment and the opportunity to apply Connections Education’s skills and technologies in new segments and geographic markets," the site says.
That may bring a gulp from families and educators facing a host of start-up problems with Pearson's PowerSchool/Home Base data system. Since the system debuted statewide this summer, CMS and other districts have faced delays in class schedules, enrollment reports, transcripts and first-quarter report cards. After the delay in report cards was announced last week, education junkie and recent school board candidate Bolyn McClung clued me in to this ongoing list of "known issues" with the system. Looks like there's quite a bit of work left to do.