Letter: Virtual schools provide opportunities for families

May. 11, 2014 @ 02:14 PM

To the editor:

There’s a serious school choice debate underway in our great state that will determine the educational future of children like mine who live in communities across North Carolina. Thanks to innovative public school leaders and policymakers who believe the status quo isn’t good enough for our children, new options in public education have emerged: public virtual schools.

One size does not fit all. This is a key principle in K-12 public education reform and why charter schools—with their innovative approach to filling in the gaps of traditional education—have grown quickly around the country.

There are many gaps in K-12 public education today—gaps for students who learn at a different pace, in course availability, and in the effectiveness of an educator to teach instead of manage a traditional classroom. With state-certified teachers, actively engaged learning coaches, individualized learning programs, standards-aligned curriculum and leading digital learning resources, the proposed virtual charter school North Carolina Connections Academy will fill those gaps and bring educational success to students who, for a variety of reasons, have not thrived in a traditional classroom setting.

Here are the three major reasons why I urge the Charter School Advisory Board to recommend approval of the North Carolina Connections Academy charter application to serve our state’s students and families:

#1: North Carolina has a large student population that will benefit from this individualized educational program. Brick-and-mortar schools reach students only within their physical proximity, but a high-quality virtual school can leverage effective state-certified teachers and curriculum to meet the needs of students anywhere. Many students who live in rural communities will gain an attractive new public education alternative.

#2: North Carolina’s families want a full-time virtual school. More than 5,100 families have reached out to learn more about North Carolina Connections Academy, and the local board has heard from many more through information sessions, social media, and email correspondence.

#3: Online course enrollments in North Carolina have surged. Keeping Pace with K-12 Online & Blended Learning (2013), the well-respected annual e-learning report, indicates North Carolina has the second highest number of online course enrollments of any state-run supplemental course program. While we have “no full-time online schools,” the State Board of Education has approved procedures for virtual charter schools to operate.

Let’s provide more e-learning alternatives that our families throughout the state have been requesting. Our students deserve high quality options like North Carolina Connections Academy.

Bryan Setser

President, North Carolina Connections Academy Founding Board