Online charter schools are becoming more popular every year. These public schools seem to be the best of both worlds: teach the kids at home and have them enrolled in an accredited school. However, online charter schools have drawbacks as well. Parents should weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a final decision.
The Pros of Online Charter Schools
Online charter schools provide the opportunity for learning at home while being under the supervision of a public school. For families with multiple children to teach and limited funds, an online charter school may be the answer. The online schools provide curriculum free of charge to the parents. Some schools even provide computer equipment and a stipend for internet access. The materials are expected to be returned at the end of the school year.
An online charter school may be an option for a parent who doubts their ability to teach. The online charter school provides a daily schedule with links to all of the learning material. A parent’s role is more of a learning coach than a teacher.
Most online charter schools require regular conferences with students and parents. Work samples must be sent in at specified intervals. For parents concerned about their child’s progress, regular feedback from a certified teacher is comforting.
Online charter schools provide high school transcripts and any diploma received from one is a state accredited diploma. This may help in getting accepted into certain colleges.
The Cons of Online Charter Schools
The online charter school is not perfect. There are many things parents should know prior to choosing this option. First and foremost, the online charter school is still a public school. Students will be required to log in a certain number of hours every week and log in daily attendance in order for the school to be in compliance with state regulations. Families that require a flexible schedule may find an online charter school to be too rigid.
Homeschool groups do not always accept families who use online charter schools as the schools are still public schools. This is the only time when schooling at home may have negative social consequences. If the online charter school does not hold regular outings and local homeschool support groups will not accept families who attend online charter schools, social time for these kids becomes limited.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) will not accept memberships from families who participate in online charter schools. Families who run into trouble with attendance and curriculum completion issues are pretty much on their own.
Students with learning disabilities and learning difficulties will find setting up an IEP very difficult with many online charter schools as they do not have special education teachers available. Kids who require remedial help will have to depend on their parents to provide adequate educational support.
Just like traditional public schools, online charter schools are held to the same criteria under the No Child Left Behind Act. Online charter schools must show student improvement year over year. As most online schools are small schools, even one student who performs poorly can have a major impact on the school’s ratings. Online charter schools have been accused of forcing out students who perform poorly and refusing to accept students who fall into certain socioeconomic categories in order to help the school’s ranking.
Overall, parents should find out about field trips, curriculum, required hours and program flexibility before deciding to enroll in an online charter school. Checking into the local homeschool community to see if they allow online charter school families to participate in their activities is advised. Once all of the information is gathered, parents can make the best decision for their children and their families.
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