Cyber education grows in districts, lowers enrollment at charter schools
Nancy Haines-Moskala is furious about the planned closing in June of her son's cyber charter school.
“You are obligated to deliver the same education to our children that we were promised by you when we enrolled our children in this school,” Haines-Moskala, 43, of Lincoln Place told the board of STREAM Academy at a Wilkins meeting last week.
STREAM has had its enrollment decline as more cyber charter schools opened and traditional school districts boosted their online offerings to bring back students who left for charter schools, taking state subsidies with them.
“One of the reasons we believe enrollment is so low … with the increasing availability of a variety of technologies, parents and students have more options than ever before,” said Sarah McCluan, spokeswoman for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which operates STREAM Academy.
Almost every district in Allegheny County offers cyber education for students, ranging from a few classes to a full school, AIU executive director Linda Hippert said.
Pittsburgh Public Schools said it spent more than $45 million on tuition in the 2011-12 school year for about 3,125 students who lived with the school district but were attending charter schools. Of that, about $11.4 million paid the tuition for 789 students enrolled in cyber charter schools.
In response, the district opened Pittsburgh Online Academy in the fall.
Of the 47 students in sixth through 12th grade enrolled in the academy, about 20 percent returned from cyber charter schools, administrator Mark McClinchie said.
“I think we'll continue to grow probably 20 to 30 percent a year,” he said.
Cyber school advocates say districts are realizing what online providers have known for years: Cyber education allows students to learn at a more flexible pace and removes distractions, such as bullying.
“Fifty percent of the kids who go to cyber charter schools are failing in their home districts, so it's an effort to try to get them back up to grade level,” said Robert Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools in West Chester.
STREAM offers synchronous learning, which means students and teachers are required to interact at scheduled times.
“The STREAM program and teachers are too good to let go,” said Haines-Moskala, whose son, Lucas, 11, is a fifth-grader.
The school is governed by a board of directors made up of superintendents or their designees from 10 school districts.
Charter schools have yet to prove themselves academically, some educators said.
Of the 12 cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania during the 2011-12 school year, none made adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. Of 144 brick-and-mortar charter schools, 43 made AYP.
The state has 16 cyber charter schools.
McCluan said AIU developed STREAM last year, hoping to reverse the enrollment losses of its 11-year-old predecessor, PA Learners Online, whose enrollment slipped from 660 in June 2009 to 386 in June 2012.
STREAM is an acronym for science, technology, research, engineering, arts and math. It opened in August with the hope that the science and technology focus, in addition to a learning center in Wilkins that students visit a few times a month, would turn the tide.
STREAM officials initially projected that 650 students would enroll, but by August, projections fell to 400. Between December and March 20, enrollment slipped from 333 to 282.
STREAM's 2012-13 budget is $6.7 million. Estimated revenue by December was $4.2 million, but expenses were $5.8 million.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Chryst a miserable failure at Pitt
- Ex-Penguins defenseman Niskanen still miffed by coaches’ firings
- Pitt players support Rudolph for job
- Pouliot scores in NHL debut as Penguins tame Panthers
- Steelers’ Bell, Chiefs’ Charles elevating running back position in NFL
- Pitt football fights to overcome steppingstone status
- Jeannette company’s miniature steam engines coveted for decades
- Steelers notebook: Bell says he’s prepared to test Chiefs defense
- Minor league report: Other prospects on Penguins’ radar
- Pair of NYC officers killed in ambush shooting
- Chiefs game-plan play that suits speedy rookie Thomas’ talents