Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School

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The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School
Address
652 Midland Avenue
Midland, Pennsylvania
United States
Information
Type Online
Motto

Helping families build their own school... Out of choices, not bricks. (2000-2014)

The learning never stops. (2014-present)
Established 2000
Grades Pre-K - 12
Enrollment Public (PA only), 10,000+
Website

The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, known familiarly as PA Cyber, is a public cyber charter school founded in Midland, Pennsylvania in 2000, and enrollment in it is open to all Pennsylvania students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade throughout the commonwealth. The school secured a five-year renewal of its charter, from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, in July 2010.[1] After a yearlong review, the school was accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in 2011.[2] According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012-2013 school year, the Title 1 school reported an enrollment of 10,434 pupils, 1,326 of whom had IEPs. It reported a 50.75 student/teacher ratio.[3] The law requires "at least 75 percent of the professional staff of a charter school must hold appropriate Pennsylvania certification." In 2013, the school held three graduation ceremonies and, according to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education,[4] it graduated 1500 students, 87.7 percent of whom were bound for a post-secondary education.

"Cyber charter schools are approved by the PA Department of Education. Both [charter schools and cyber charter schools] are created and controlled by parents, teachers, community leaders, and colleges or universities. Charter schools operate free from many educational mandates, except for those concerning nondiscrimination, health and safety and accountability. Charter Schools offer alternatives in education using strategies that may save money and improve student performance," according to the department's official government website.[5]

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, it "is responsible for the oversight of cyber charter schools which [sic] including approval of the initial charter and decisions whether to renew, non-renew or revoke the charter. The cyber charter school provides instruction through the Internet or other electronic/digital means. A Cyber Charter School is also required to provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction or nine 900 hours per school year of instruction at the elementary level or 990 per school year of instruction at the secondary level."[6] The school is governed by an appointed Board of Trustees numbering seven.[7] The Board of Trustees operates the school in accordance with the provisions of Act 22 of 1997 (Charter Schools Act). The board submits an annual report to the Pennsylvania Department of Education,[8] as well as decides matters related to the operation of the school, including, but not limited to, budgeting, curriculum and operating procedures, subject to the school’s charter; it is responsible for hiring and firing all necessary professional and nonprofessional employees and it must comply with the state's "sunshine act." [9]

Origins[edit]

When the steel mill in Midland, PA closed, a period of decline and population erosion began.[10] In 1986, the Midland Borough School District closed its high school and the students were sent to neighboring school districts on an annual tuition basis. To give these students another option, community and school board members started Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, which later became PA Cyber. Initially, more than 500 students enrolled in the school. The first graduating class had 17 students. Today, PA Cyber Charter School employs nearly 600 people and has regional offices in Crum Lynne near Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Wexford near Pittsburgh. There are also support offices in Erie, Greensburg, the Lehigh Valley and State College.

Descriptions[edit]

In 2010, the school reported that 33.4% of its students met federal poverty levels. In 2011, the school's annual report with the Pennsylvania Department of Education noted that 100% of its 268 staff members were certified.[11]

Classes[edit]

Students can take either real-time classes in what are called virtual classes, or self-paced classes. Students have access to a variety of classes in several categories. Students are required to take certain courses for each grade level. In addition to a traditional curriculum of English, science, social studies, math and the arts, students can enroll in courses about computers, home economics and world languages.

Students are required to be enrolled in five classes to be considered a full-time student. They are expected to work for one hour per day per subject. Additionally, a Graduation Project is required as it is with every Pennsylvania public school district by state law.

Virtual classes[edit]

In a virtual course, students attend classes through Blackboard Collaborate (Previously named Elluminate). Assignments are completed through Brainhoney: these include homework, tests and other graded assignments. Students log in for class and participate with a live teacher. Students may speak during class by clicking an icon to "raise their hands", or be called upon by the teacher. Communication can take place with private notes between teacher and student. If given the rights to use chat, students can communicate with each other publicly or privately. The virtual classroom allows for students to participate in "breakout rooms" to work collaboratively on an assignment; in these rooms, students can draw on the whiteboard, chat with their group mates, and use their microphones to communicate.

Asynchronous classes[edit]

In an asynchronous class, students complete coursework through Lincoln Interactive and Little Lincoln. Students have five months to complete a traditional semester's assignments. Assignments are monitored and graded by a teacher as the student progresses through the lessons.

Blended classes[edit]

Blended classes are, as the name suggests, blended. The first two virtual sessions are mandatory, but after that, they are optional only for those who are on pace with their assignments and/or have a grade C or above.

Academic results[edit]

In 2011, 2010 and 2009, PA Cyber Charter School achieved AYP status under No Child Left Behind.[12] Students in grades 3rd through 8th and 11th grade participate in the state's mandated school assessments called PSSAs. They are tested in reading, writing, mathematics and science. Eleventh grade students participated in the Keystone Exams, end of course pilot exams. The PDE did not make individual school's Keystone Exams results public.

PSSA Results

11th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 65% on grade level, (15% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[13]
  • 2010 - 68% (14% below basic). State - 66% [14]
  • 2009 - 65% (16% below basic). State - 65%
  • 2008 - 62% (18% below basic). State - 65% [15]

11th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 32% on grade level (44% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[16]
  • 2010 - 33% (45% below basic). State - 59% (833 pupils) [17]
  • 2009 - 33% (42% below basic). State - 56% (836 pupils) [18]
  • 2008 - 33% (42% below basic). State - 56% [19] (801 pupils)

11th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 34% on grade level (15% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[20]
  • 2010 - 35% (15% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 38% (15% below basic). State - 40%
  • 2008 - 32% (14% below basic). State - 39% [21]

8th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 81% on grade level (7% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.
  • 2010 - 77% (9% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 79% (8% below basic), State - 80%
  • 2008 - 73% (15% below basic), State - 78% [22]

8th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 56% on grade level (23% below basic). State - 76.9%
  • 2010 - 52% (26% below basic). State - 75% (645 pupils) [23]
  • 2009 - 46% (24% below basic). State - 71% (595 pupils) [24]
  • 2008 - 42% (37% below basic). State - 70% (613 pupils)

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 53% on grade level (24% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 53% (29% below basic). State – 57% [25]
  • 2009 - 51% (23% below basic). State - 55% (553 pupils)[26]
  • 2008 - 47% (24% below basic). State - 52% [27]

7th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 76% on grade level (7% below basic). State – 76%
  • 2010 - 73% (10% below basic). State - 73%
  • 2009 - 72% (9% below basic). State - 71%
  • 2008 - 62% (14% below basic). State - 70%

7th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 64% on grade level (18% below basic). State - 78.6%
  • 2010 - 62% (22% below basic). State - 77% (564 pupils)
  • 2009 - 62% (18% below basic), State - 75% (567 pupils)
  • 2008 - 53% (28% below basic), State - 71% (525 pupils)

6th Grade Reading:

  • 2011 - 68% (13% below basic). State - 69.9%
  • 2010 - 63% (16% below basic). State - 68%
  • 2009 - 60% (14% below basic), State - 67%
  • 2008 - 58% (16% below basic), State - 67%

6th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 63% on grade level (18% below basic). State - 78.8%
  • 2010 - 55% (18% below basic). State - 78% (468 pupils)
  • 2009 - 53% (22% below basic), State - 75% (430 pupils)
  • 2008 - 50% (28% below basic), State - 72% (449 pupils)

5th Grade Reading:

  • 2011 - 56% on grade level (20% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 67.3% of 5th graders are on grade level.
  • 2010 - 48% (23% below basic). State – 64%
  • 2009 - 56% (23% below basic), State - 64%
  • 2008 - 45% (28% below basic), State - 62%

5th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 52% on grade level (17% below basic). State - 74%
  • 2010 - 48% (20% below basic). State - 76.3% (386 pupils)
  • 2009 - 49% (24% below basic), State - 73% (372 pupils)
  • 2008 - 42% (26% below basic), State - 73% (325 pupils)
4th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 62% (18% below basic), State – 73.3%
  • 2010 - 64% (18% below basic), State - 73%
  • 2009 - 61% (17% below basic), State - 72%
  • 2008 - 59% (20% below basic), State - 70%
4th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 73% (16% below basic), State – 85.3%
  • 2010 - 70% (18% below basic), State - 84% (338 pupils)
  • 2009 - 62% (21% below basic), State - 81% (301 pupils)
  • 2008 - 59% (30% below basic), State - 80% (296 pupils)
4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 82%, (7% below basic), State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 82%, (8% below basic), State - 81%
  • 2009 - 80%, (7% below basic), State - 83%
  • 2008 - 74%, (11% below basic), State - 81%
3rd Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 73% (16% below basic), State – 77%
  • 2010 - 74% (16% below basic), State - 75%
  • 2009 - 69%, (20% below basic), State - 77%
  • 2008 - 67%, (19% below basic), State - 70%
3rd Grade Math
  • 2011 - 74% (9% below basic), State – 83%
  • 2010 - 70% (9% below basic), State - 84% (292 pupils)
  • 2009 - 66%, (12% below basic), State - 81% (279 pupils)
  • 2008 - 58%, (16% below basic), State - 80% (259 pupils)

SAT scores[edit]

From January to June 2011, 294 PA Cyber Charter School students took the SAT exams. The average scores were Verbal, 524; Math, 479; Writing, 487.[28] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[29] the United States average was 497 verbal, 514 math and 489 in writing.[30]

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 6% of PA Cyber Charter School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges. This was one of the lowest remediation rates among the Commonwealth's public schools.[31] Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years.[32] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011, the graduation rate at PA Cyber Charter School was 91%.[33] In 2010, the school's graduation rate was 88%.[34] In 2009 - 92% [35]

Special education[edit]

In December 2011, The Pennsylvania Department of Education Bureau of Special Education reported that 1,173 of the 9,651 students at the school were enrolled within special education, 12.2% of the student population. The school served a higher percentage of students in the disability categories of Autism, Emotional Disturbance, Other Health Impairment, and Specific Learning Disability than in the overall state of Pennsylvania.[36]

In 2010, 83% of the school's special education students graduated rather than dropping out. The statewide rate was 87%.[37]

Special Education students have access to testing, such as Dora/Doma and others, that allows proper academic placing, and students can be given higher or lower grade level course work based on these scores. This allows the student to learn skills they may have missed while in the traditional special education setting.

Extracurricular activities[edit]

Pennsylvania school law allows students in cyber charter schools to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities in their home districts. There have been several instances of this, most notably being that 3 state champion wrestlers have graduated from PA Cyber. PA Cyber also has an assortment of clubs and they host the occasional meetups with parents and other children enrolled in PA Cyber.

Enrollment[edit]

Since PA Cyber is a public school, any student who resides in the state of Pennsylvania is allowed to enroll at no cost. Students are provided with all of the materials needed to complete coursework. PA Cyber pays for the student's internet connection. Enrollment has been growing, from more than 500 students the first year (2000) to 10,000, in November 2010.[38]

The student's home school district pays tuition to the cyber school. By legislative formula, home districts pay between 90 and 95 percent of what it costs them to educate students in the classroom. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania no longer provides any relief to public school districts for the funding of cyber charter schools. Previously, the Commonwealth reimbursed public school districts 30 percent of their total payments for this type of education, but has since pulled that reimbursement.

PA Cyber Charter School lost a suit brought by Slippery Rock Area School District. The school enrolled a 4 year old, but the child's School District did not offer kindergarten for 4 year olds to district residents. The district refused to pay kindergarten tuition for the child. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that a "cyber school may still set the entry age of its students and allow 4-year-old children to enroll in its kindergarten program, but it does so at its own cost if the student’s home district has set a different entrance age.” [39]

Criticisms[edit]

The school has been subject to regular criticism from the Pennsylvania School Board Association and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials over several issues, including funding and the school's fund balance reserves.[40] In 2010, the school reported an Unreserved - Undesignated Fund balance of $2,406,089 and a Reserved - Undesignated Fund balance of $11,415,257.[41] The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[42]

The school was subject to a grand jury investigation in 2007 regarding using funds improperly (for expenses not related to each individual student). The allegations were: double billing, excessive management fees, questionable payments to building contractors and misuse of tax dollars with regards to the building of a $23.5 million Performing Arts Center.[43][44][45] No indictment came from the proceedings.[46][47]

Awards[edit]

The school was named "Top Places to Work" by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in October 2011.[48]

2012 Pre-K–12 Educator Award from University of Pittsburgh School of Education [49]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Eleanor Chute, Pa. Cyber Charter School gets 5-year renewal, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 22, 2010
  2. ^ Beaver County Times, Midland: Cyber school accredited, November 6, 2011
  3. ^ http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/school_detail.asp?Search=1&State=42&SchoolType=1&SchoolType=2&SchoolType=3&SchoolType=4&SpecificSchlTypes=charter&IncGrade=-1&LoGrade=-1&HiGrade=-1&SchoolPageNum=8&ID=420007100534
  4. ^ http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/graduates/7426
  5. ^ http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/charter_schools/7356/page/1035758
  6. ^ http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/charter_schools/7356/page/1035758
  7. ^ http://www.pacyber.org/about/?Charter-3
  8. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2012). "Charter School Annual Reports and Enrollment Data". 
  9. ^ http://www.chaponline.com/getting-started/whats-the-difference/the-pennsylvania-law-for-charter-schools/
  10. ^ http://www.post-gazette.com/business/businessnews/2012/12/23/In-desperate-1983-there-was-nowhere-for-Pittsburgh-s-economy-to-go-but-up/stories/201212230258
  11. ^ PA Cyber Charter School Administration (2010). "Pennsylvania Department of Education posts the Annual Charter School Reports". 
  12. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (September 29, 2011). "PA Cyber Charter School AYP Overview". 
  13. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (September 29, 2011). "2010-2011 PSSA and AYP Results". 
  14. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2010). "2009-2010 PSSA and AYP Results". 
  15. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (August 15, 2008). "2007-2008 PSSA and AYP Results". 
  16. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (September 29, 2011). "PA Cyber Charter School Academic Achievement Report Card 2011". 
  17. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education, PA Cyber Charter School Report Card 2010, October 20, 2010
  18. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education, PA Cyber Charter School Report Card 2009, September 14, 2009
  19. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education, PA Cyber Charter School Report Card 2008, August 15, 2008
  20. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (September 29, 2011). "2010-2011 PSSA results in Science". 
  21. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2008). "Report on PSSA Science results by school and grade 2008". 
  22. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (August 15, 2008). "Reading and Math PSSA 2008 by Schools". 
  23. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education Report (September 14, 2010). "2010 PSSAs: Reading, Math, Writing Results". 
  24. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2009). "2009 PSSAs: Reading, Math, Writing and Science Results". 
  25. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education Report (August 2010). "Science PSSA 2010 by Schools". 
  26. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education Report (August 2009). "Science PSSA 2009 by Schools". 
  27. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education Report (August 15, 2008). "Science PSSA 2008 by Schools". 
  28. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2011). "Public School SAT Scores 2011". 
  29. ^ College Board (September 2011). "SAT Scores State By State - Pennsylvania". 
  30. ^ "While U.S. SAT scores dip across the board, N.J. test-takers hold steady". NJ.com. September 2011. 
  31. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (January 20, 2009). "Pennsylvania College Remediation Report,". 
  32. ^ National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, 2008
  33. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (September 29, 2011). "PA Cyber School AYP Data Table 2011". 
  34. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education, PA Cyber School AYP Data Table 2010, October 20, 2010
  35. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education, PA Cyber School AYP Data Table 2009, September 14, 2009
  36. ^ Pennsylvania Bureau of Special Education Services (2010–2011). "Special Education Data Report School Year 2011-2012". 
  37. ^ Pennsylvania Bureau of Special Education Services (2009–2010). "Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School Special Education Data Report LEA Performance on State Performance Plan (SPP) Targets". 
  38. ^ Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School press release, PA Cyber Charter School Hits 10,000 Enrollment, Nov. 27 2010
  39. ^ Justice Joan Orie Melvin, April 12, 2011. "SLIPPERY ROCK AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT v PENNSYLVANIA CYBER CHARTER SCHOOL". 
  40. ^ Pennsylvania School Board Association (2011). "Charter Schools Talking Point". 
  41. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2011). "Fund Balances by Local Education Agency 1997 to 2010". 
  42. ^ Murphy, Jan., Pennsylvania's public schools boost reserves, CentreDaily Times, September 22, 2010
  43. ^ Suzie Clarke, Steven Hurlburt, Lindsay Wines, George Mason University School of Public Policy, Balancing ‘BRICK-AND-MORTAR’ & ‘BITS-AND-BYTES’: An Analysis of CyberCharter School Funding in Pennsylvania, Spring 2007
  44. ^ HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE (August 1, 2007). "Informational Meeting Cyber Charter School Legislation transcript". 
  45. ^ Maunz, Shay (October 6, 2011). "Cyber School Had Genesis Here: PA Cyber brought new life to depressed Midland and spawned an education alternative - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  46. ^ Pennsylvania Attorney General Office, PA Cyber Charter School Investigation, 2009
  47. ^ O'Shea, Patrick., Beaver Times Online, Trombetta leaves a diverse legacy, May 11, 2012
  48. ^ Shay Maunz, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Top Places to Work - Top Large Employer, October 6, 2011
  49. ^ http://www.pacyber.org/view-bulletin.jsp?restrictids=nu_repeatitemid&restrictvalues=2161392240601333440541561

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°38′19″N 80°27′18″W / 40.63851°N 80.45490°W / 40.63851; -80.45490