In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has driven regular public school instruction online, it’s reasonable for Maryland to reconsider its law that makes online charter schools illegal. It’s important to point out that the question of legality is a different question than whether virtual learning is, on average, as effective as in-person schooling. Even those who don’t want online education for their children can support the right of other parents to choose this option. The question is whether online charter schools should remain illegal for everyone in Maryland, including students who excel online.

There’s a good amount of research, such as Stanford’s CREDO study in 2015, that shows that fully online schooling tends to be less effective than in-person learning for most students. That finding contradicted a 2010 U.S. Department of Education analysis that showed an advantage for online students. K12.com, an online school, posted results from 2013-2014 for three of its online schools — the Texas Virtual Academy, Arizona Virtual Academy and Georgia Cyber Academy — that reduced the achievement gap for lower income students. In 2011, a study found that “blended learning” college classes which are partially online and in person, had better results than non-blended classes.

At this time there isn’t enough evidence to support outlawing online schooling. We don’t yet know what percentage of online time is optimal for most students and if this varies with age. Some students clearly benefit from these schools, while others do not. The same could be said about the regular public schools, brick-and-mortar charter schools, and just about any other approach to learning. What works for one student might not work for the next. Your mileage may vary.

Like brick-and-mortar schools, online schools vary in the quality of their curriculum, ease of use, and instructional techniques. Virtual schools often ship hands-on materials to their students in addition to their digital content. In addition to lesson plans designed for parents to teach to their children, online schools provide experienced teachers for instruction and tutoring. Virtual schooling doesn’t mean students spend hours in front of a computer without adult supervision or social interaction with other students. There are a variety of approaches, most of which retain elements of the traditional classroom.

Right now 22 states allow virtual charter schools. It’s hard to find a good reason for Maryland not to join them. Yes, a lot of evidence favors traditional schools. But having lower performance on average doesn’t justify outlawing the entire virtual school concept just as it wouldn’t make sense to outlaw all restaurants because of those that aren’t up to your standards and preferences. We certainly wouldn’t want to close public schools in favor of private schools even if private schools’ scores were higher in aggregate — or vice versa.

Research results are mathematical averages and useful for identifying trends, but in reality, students attend specific, actual schools. Parents ought to have the chance to try out virtual options and see which ones work for them. Now that learning has been pushed online, the advantages of having curricula available that were specifically designed for online learning becomes obvious. Just ask any teacher who has been forced to adapt their in-person lessons for the internet. This requires different approaches, materials and teacher training, which online charters have years of experience with.

The traditional concern among opponents of virtual schooling has been that online charter schools need to be held accountable for results. That’s a valid concern, but already covered by Maryland’s law, which requires charter schools meet the same or greater standards for staffing, academics, and fiscal responsibility as regular public schools. This includes Maryland’s testing program, which enables parents to compare results. Like all charter schools, online charters can be closed at any time for cause and they undergo annual reviews in addition to a lengthy evaluation prior to charter renewal. Regular public schools are not required to do this.

Maryland currently allows third-party providers such as Edgenuity, Florida Virtual School, and APEX to teach online high school courses. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to take classes that might not otherwise be available to them — learning to speak Japanese, for example — and helps students whose athletic or other pursuits require greater flexibility in scheduling that online courses offer. At a time when parents are wondering if and when regular school will begin and what options they’ll have if it doesn’t, it seems fair to say that allowing online charter schools in Maryland isn’t just an idea whose time has come. It’s truly needed.

(27) comments

DickD

As long as you use your own funds, who cares? The problem is taking funds away from public schools, often time for charter schools that are not performing as well.

This  was in the Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/05/20/a-dozen-problems-with-charter-schools/

"School reformers keep talking about charter schools as if they were the answer to public education’s problems, when there is a great deal of evidence that shows big problems with the charter sector."

One out of six charter schools in Pennsylvania was high performing and none of their charter schools were high performing.  The point that bothers me the most is the number four one that states the charter schools are "rife with fraud and corruption".  Of course there is the one that states some charter schools and actually hurting students.  Read the whole article.

DickD

Reasons parents send their children to charter schools: 

http://acharterschool.com/10-reasons-parents-choose-charter-schools-public-schools/

I looked at these reasons and though they were more reason for staying in a public school than not.Still, if training is on line class size is not a issue, nor is discipline, religious training, class size, individual training, etc.  In other words what in the world is our government giving charter schools money.

Cardamom

Here here! Beautifully reasoned piece. Our current COVID educational experiment is laying bare some very real issues in schooling. As a parent, currently trying to manage my child's distance learning, I would love if there were public charter options available to me that were specifically designed for this platform. It's clear that current restrictions are not for the benefit of children. They're protecting others' interests.

gabrielshorn2013

Where! Where!

Try Hear! Hear! It is an expression used as a short, repeated form of hear him/her. It represents a listener's agreement with the point being made by a speaker.

public-tertiary

Thanks! I usually do that but it was a busy day.

Cardamom

D'oh. Thanks for catching that--my mistake. I appreciate your kindhearted and humorous correction!

public-tertiary

[thumbup]

hayduke2

So thank and appreciate your child's teachers and what they do day in, day out.

Dwasserba

Helpful. Thank you.

rll34

Another great opinion column Tom. Thanks for your research and insight on this issue to make us aware of great education alternatives that are already being used in many states, and would be of good benefit for many of our Maryland students. Online learning is a very worthwhile option whose time has come. I believe that as our colleges do more online learning, our Maryland public school administrators will realize its benefits. Also, as parents speak up for interest in online options, this will influence administrator's decisions. Thanks again, Tom.

public-tertiary

“Even those who don’t want online education for their children can support the right of other parents to choose this option.”

Agreed. And that is such a great concept generally. One could apply it to all sorts of personal situations.

jsklinelga

" The question is whether online charter schools should remain illegal for everyone in Maryland, including students who excel online." We all know that the answer to this does not center on the educational advantages, or disadvantages, but on maintaining the status quo. The Maryland State Department of Education, the County BOE, the County Council, the county Ethics Board and the Teacher's Union combined, have evolved into a major, self perpetuating political force. Whether it is good or bad for education is, frankly, irrelevant. Any self respecting politician who would dare to advance polices that might minimize their control would receive nothing short of a virtual tar and feathering.

phydeaux994

Everything is bad in this Country according to you, and it can’t be fixed. “Only I can FIX it”. Isn’t that what Donald John Trump PROMISED HE WOULD DO??? He had the whole Government in his control in 2017 and 2018 and he FIXED NOTHING!! He just BROKE MORE STUFF!!! But it’s Obama’s fault. It’s the F.B.I.’s coup’s fault. It’s Jeff Sessions fault. It’s Nancy Palosi and Chuck Schumer’s fault!! It’s the do nothing Democrats fault. It’s the BLUE STATES GOVERNORS FAULT. It’s the IG’s fault. It’s the TRUMP HATER’s fault. It’s W.H.O.’s fault! It’s China’s fault. It’s the CDC’s fault. IT’S EVERYBODY’S FAULT BUT MINE!!! “ONLY I CAN FIX IT”. And when I can’t it’s not my fault. “I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY”. But I do take hydoxychloroquine?? ****FOUR MORE YEARS****

gabrielshorn2013

Oh Jeez, he's off his meds again. Nurse, clozapine stat!

phydeaux994

Tell me gab, could you give me a list of 5 or 10 reasons why you support Donald John Trump? Thanks. Peace✌️

DickD

You can't come up with a good response so you attack phy, Gabe? Donald Trump tactic.

gabrielshorn2013

No dick, I'm weary of explaining it to him (and you) over, and over, and over, and over...

My suggestion would be for both of you to try Prevagen. It's OTC at the CVS dick.

hayduke2

Why hate on teachers jsk???

jsklinelga

hayduke

Why is it hate on teachers? Are the only teachers ones that work for the State or county? For too long people have used your argument. The BOE has simply gotten out of control. Do you think people like talking against teachers? But across this country the publicly funded Teacher's Unions have become Democrat political machines. It was a major issue in the 2016 election and will be in the 2020 election. Tell phy that one reason people voted for DJT was his opposition to what the public school systems have become.

phydeaux994

C’mon jsk, I’m beginning to think you don’t like me. It would be great if you could explain why you disagree with my comment, especially the first sentence. And most of my comment is just repeating things that Don has said with his face turning red and yelling. BTW, I have never heard Trump talk about Education except to say he prefers people to be uneducated so they will believe him. He hates people that are highly educated and don’t agree with him. And that’s most of highly educated people. That’s one reason I can’t understand why you adore him. Peace. ✌️

hayduke2

Betsy Devi’s is pathetic and a poor choice. You claim education was a major issue in 2016 - care to provide some support or data for that statement. Teachers are always an easy target as are the unions but that also doesn’t hold water.

hayduke2

DEVOS

DickD

Public funding of the teacher's union? Where did you get that from, JIm? It is against the law.

DickD

The BOE has gotten out of control? Like how? You give out as much gibberish as Trump.

DickD

I read phy's answer below and read your comment. The question in my mind is are you a "Stable Genius" like your hero Trump. Phy made sense, you don't.

jsklinelga

DickD

It makes little sense to reply to most of this nonsense but that statement is so far out in left field I have to respond. But then again i really do not know how to respond except by saying it makes sense to me that phy makes sense to you.

shiftless88

I think the point, jsk, is that you just spout platitudes as if they are truths. I could equally say that all private businesses that run charter schools put profit before students and are ripe for corruption. It sounds good, but is it true? In your world it seems that if it sounds good then it must be true.

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