Hi, Matt! I'm not only a learning Moodler but I'm also a lay advocate for special needs children here in South Carolina, USA. Things are a bit different down here in the States.
The reason is simple...my children get in individualized education in a virtual charter school. Our teachers are employees of our State Department of Education and they will get SC Diplomas when they graduate. If a child is ADHD or Autistic then they can take a break when they need to. You have flexability within reason. In short, not every student learns well in a brick and mortar, sit in your seat environment. Then there is the issue of bullying, drugs, sex, gangs...the list goes on.
Our virtual charter school here in SC takes quite a few kids that simply didn't fit and were failing (or getting kicked out). We turn failure into success one kid at a time.
There are plenty of people who don't like virtual charter schools simply bacause it empowers students to learn in a way simply not found in the conventional classroom. My 8 year old is in the 3rd grade but taking 4th grade reading and math. He blows away the standardized tests.
Here's the bottom line...most public schools in America don't do much more than copy and paste data. It's like mass producing DVD's. Stuff is downloaded from the teacher to the student and then varified (testing). The bad news is that not all kids can learn that way. There are three types of learning methods: Right brain, left brain and tactile. A tactile learner is not going to learn as much as a right brain learner in a standard brick and mortar setting.
Our virtual charter school takes the kids the brick and mortar have failed to educate. If the brick and mortar didn't fail to educate so many children then there wouldn't be an issue. The problem is that many kids simply don't score high enough to even make it into college. What is that? Our first graduation we had 14 students. 12 were going onto higher education and 1 was going into the Marines. When the brick and mortars can have 6 out of 7 students headed for college then the arguement you seem to be backing will have some validity.
I don't think that the articles are a direct criticism of the school your children are attending and I'm glad to hear they're doing well.
I'm interested in the reactions these kinds of articles get from elearning communities like this one. Obviously, we all think elearning is effective (unless we have some agent provocateurs in our midst!) and if we want to support our claims we can cite various peer reviewed research papers and meta-analyses, e.g. http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf
I'd like to focus on the content of the articles, which are essentially about the same point; the title of this thread. I'm sure others have glanced at or even read some of the content of the articles I've linked to but perhaps are waiting to see what other people post. I think it's a contentious issue that ultimately effects us all, since the mainstream media are unlikely to distinguish between exemplary, ground-breaking elearning programmes and the practices referred to in the articles.
Any thoughts anyone?
I'm so glad that your son is doing so well with the virtual charter school.
However, I don't think that the flexibility of online classrooms was the complaint. I think the three main concerns were:
1. The classes had a lower teacher:student ratio, and, presumably, students would get less of the teacher's attention.
2. The cost per pupil was nearly identical to that of a brick-and-mortar school, even though there was far less physical maintenaince. My recollection was that this was approximately $10,000 per pupil per year. At first blush, one would assume that a virtual school would spend far less on infrastructure than a physical one, which leads to concerns about where the money is going.
3. That the movement may be driven by for-profit online charter schools taking resources out of an already financially strapped system, leaving fewer resources for students in the traditional classroom.
I assume that the online charter schools are also only reasonably useful to families that have an adult who can stay home with their child, since they will require physical supervision. It would make sense to me, then, that those children are potentially getting the additional advantage of their own parent's one-on-one attention, which wasn't available to them in a traditional school. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that the parent's direct supervision and attention was a significant contributing factor to the child's success.