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An Inside Look at the Georgia Virtual Academy

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Here's an in-depth article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution profiling one family which has enrolled its children in the Georgia Virtual Academy after deciding that online education is the right choice for them. The Georgia Virtual Academy has become one of the biggest in the nation, with about 4,400 middle and elementary school students.

Although enrollment in this school, and other online academies, is growing, some opponents of online education are worried about test scores from virtual schools. For example, at the Georgia Virtual Academy, 74 percent of 8th graders failed their state math test, compared with 38 percent of students in brick-and-mortar public schools, according to the article.

The school has addressed this problem by providing prep courses to help students prepare for the test, as well as information about the tests to parents and students, almost 40 percent of whom were previously home-schooled and may not have understood the importance of the tests, say representatives from the virtual school.

There are a couple of other concerns about virtual schools, such as the lack of daily social interaction that goes hand-in-hand with brick-and-mortar schools, and also, in the case of the Georgia Virtual Academy, there's not quite enough money to provide classes in the arts or foreign languages yet. The family profiled in the article explained that their children took extra lessons outside of school to supplement their education, but that might not be an option for all families.

At any rate, this article is a good read for those of you interested to see how online education is working, at least in one state. There are definitely some obstacles, and some advantages, but as the article says, it's just too new to have any hard-hitting data on what exactly the effects of virtual schooling are.

UPDATE: I mistakenly identified the school in the AJC article as the Georgia Virtual School. The article was actually talking about the Georgia Virtual Academy, which is a virtual charter school, NOT the Georgia Virtual School, which is run by the state. My apologies for this mistake, and thanks to those of you who brought it to my attention.

7 Comments

Virtual schools will tell you that they attract students who weren't successful in the traditional classroom environment. So it may be that the lower academic achievement is due (all? in part?) to the students the school serves, not the pedagogy and/or curriculum. In other words, students who were unsuccessful academically may be trying virtual education to see if it works better for them. It's hard to draw any conclusions on this without more information...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
Sarah
http://www.thetreadmillguide.com

In depth? I don't think so. NOTE: this was the first year-- the FIRST year-- for the GVA. Those 8th graders had not been schooled appropriately prior to 8th grade, obviously. My kids who have used the k12 curriculum (which is what GVA uses) for many years did just fine on the CRCT in GA... no problems. And my high school student who used the Colorado Virtual Academy and then k12 independently in Georgia before the advent of GVA is at the top of his class in a regular high school. I would say that the author really fell down on the job in failing to discuss the reasons that a first year virtual academy would have struggling students in the highest grade which it serves. Could the parents have been at the "end of their rope" in choosing GVA? Could the kids have been kicked out of regular schools? Could they have been failed by their local school? Could they be immigrants (I have seen a bunch at gatherings)? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

The author should have mentioned the test scores from all other subject/grade levels. These were more in line, and higher in some subject/grades, than the state average. Please tell the whole story. I agree with the previous post too- many kids in this virtual school enroll and are 1-2 grade levels behind in math and/or language arts. This story was not as in depth as it should have been.

Katie love your informative blog..........
my only complaint is the comment Posted by: Amy | January 2, 2009 9:59 AM.

The comment about immigrants is in bad taste. There is no way the majority of GVA students could be failing immigrant populations. All our kids immigrant or not are struggling with the current state of education.

That comment left a sour taste in my mouth.......... not to mention how discriminatory it appears! The age of intolerance! Let's join forces to ensure our kids succeed in school and stop labelling people!

this comment is for LovinMama, I don't understand how you can be so offended by the immigrant comment. It seemed to be an observation more than anything. It is quite true that Georgia has a large ammount of immigrants. It may also be true that a portion of these families have chosen to use K12/gva to educate their children. I think you are hyper sensitive and should look at the the whole statement instead of concentrating on one portion of it. It was by no means discriminatory or meant to label anyone. Get a grip!

During GVA's first year, students were accepted into the school all the way up through the end of November. So.... many students took the state mandated tests mentioned above after only completing 4 1/2 months of course work. Please follow up with 2nd year (and future years) of CRCT results. The public will begin to see that this form of education is a great choice for many of Georgia's children. With that said, there are also many other great choices for educating our children.

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