Archive for the ‘Did You Know?’ Category

Myth Busting Cyber Charter Schools: Part 3


What is a SPP score? Why do cyber charter schools have lower SPP scores than traditional brick and mortar schools?

No cyber charter school in the state has a School Performance Profile score of 70 – but that does not mean it is not achievable.

To understand the School Performance Profile (SPP) scores of cyber charter schools, it is important to remember that the summary building-level score is not easily applied to a single school serving students in grades K-12 from hundreds of districts. Some of the metrics that are used to calculate SPP scores do not apply to cyber charter schools, meaning cyber charters receive a zero points towards their final score in some categories.

Additionally the metrics used to measure SPP have changed from year to year, making it difficult to compare to past years. To complicate the process further, only schools who have a grade 11 cohort of students have received an SPP for this year. There were marginal increases and decreases in the cyber schools this year, and despite the ups and downs PA Virtual still ranked at the top of the pack. It is also important to consider the score in the context of our student populations:

PA Virtual employs six state-certified principals and enrolls 2,500 students, which makes us larger than 60 percent of the school districts across the state. We are one of the largest cyber options in the state and educate students from all 67 counties in Pennsylvania.

  • The majority of cyber charter school students reside in struggling urban and rural school districts. It is not uncommon for larger cyber schools like PA Virtual to enroll hundreds of new students each year, who have struggled in their traditional school district.
  • A large number of students enroll in cyber school two to five years behind grade level.
  • It takes time to identify students’ intellectual and emotional needs. We accommodate each student with a tailor-made plan of individualized instruction and support, which may affect standardized testing scores, which are used to calculate SPP
  • Cyber charter schools are also an option for students with extraordinary obligations that limit their ability to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar school. In addition to providing students with extra attention, online education creates flexibility that allows students to advance at their own pace.

According to the 2014-2015 School Performance Profiles, PA Virtual is one of the highest-performing K-12 cyber charter school in Pennsylvania with a building-level score of 64.6.

Cyber education is a tuition- free public school option – the district sends a portion of your child’s per pupil allotment directly to the charter school of your choice, at no additional cost to you.

Feel free to share your thought about this topic with us!


Cyber School & Women’s History Month

PA_Virtual_Cyber School_Womens_History

Celebrate Women’s History Month by learning about these five women who have had significant impacts on the landscape of the educational and STEM fields.

Many of the advances in modern science and technology we have today would not be possible without the work of Marie Curie. Marie is one of the most frequently studied and well-known pioneers in science and education. Born in 1867, Marie had to overcome the obstacles continually placed in her way simply because she was a woman and became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in two subject areas – Physics and Chemistry. Her research advanced the field of radioactivity, X-ray equipment, and modern medicine.

Before she became president of Alabama State University in 2014, Dr. Gwendolyn Elizabeth Boyd dedicated her life to the field of STEM education. She became the first African-American female to earn her Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Yale University. Her work at the John Hopkins University Applied PHysilca Lab (APL) included engineering evaluations and analysis of the Strategic Weapons Systems on US military submarines – Polaris, Poseidon, and Trident. She has been a champion in education and a lifelong advocate of introducing children to STEM concepts at an early age.

Current President and CEO of Yahoo! Marissa Mayer has faced criticism at every turn – but let’s not forget where she started. Marissa was Google’s first female engineer, joining the team in 1999 when the company was not yet a household name. Over the years, she became a key person in the development of some of the Google brands we use every day including Google Earth, Google Maps, Local Search, Street View and Gmail and was one of the youngest members of their executive team before she moved to Yahoo! in 2012.

Samantha John is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Hopscotch, an app that allows kids to make their own games, stories or animations while learning the basic concepts of code. Hopscotch is a free app with in-app purchases, but is a game changer for introducing the power of code to young children. Hopscotch is great for boys and girls of all ages, but Samantha is also an advocate behind the Girls Who Code movement.

At only 18 years old Malala Yousafzai has paved the way for educational options for women around the world. Living in Pakistan, a country under Taliban control, Malala was attacked for speaking up in favor of a young girls basic right to education. Since 2009, she has become an international activist for women’s education a passion that began when the BBC approached her family looking for an author for an anonymous diary detailing life under Taliban rule. Since then she and spoken at the United Nations, has a foundation in her name and was the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

What women inspire you to achieve great things? Let us know!


Random Acts of Kindness

Show someone you care!


There is no better way to show someone you care, or help someone in need than with a Random Act of Kindness! This year, Random Acts of Kindness Day officially fell on February 17, but who’s to say you can’t participate for an entire week, month or year?

The movement has become more than just spontaneous acts of good intention. Over the years RAKtivists have worked to promote kindness on a daily basis – believing that the simple idea of people being nice to one another has the ability to change the world.  One person’s actions could cause a ripple effect of kindness in the world – would that really be so bad?

Whether you are simply holding the door for someone, or organizing a large community fundraiser to help those in need, just remember that every act of kindness no matter how big or small matters to someone!

Teachers can even join in on the fun! Bring kindness into your classroom with these resources and curriculum ideas! From Kindergarten to high school, there are lesson plans fit for all age groups that teach caring, respect and kindness.

What Random Acts of Kindness have you seen in your life? Have you seen a ripple effect take place from on simple action? Share your kindness stories in the comments below!!


Watch Chinese New Year Celebrations Online!


The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival varies annually based on the lunisolar Chinese calendar. Events and festivities last for a few weeks, so celebration dates vary around the globe. Check out a few of the largest celebrations that will ring in the Year of the Monkey!

In London, the festivities begin on February 14 in the city’s Chinatown district. Chinese singers dancers and performers from across the globe gathered last year to celebrate. According to, the event is continually growing each year!

One of the largest American celebrations of the Chinese New year takes place in San Francisco California, which hosts one of the largest parades in the US. This year the parade will take place at the conclusion of the celebrations Saturday, February 20, 2016.

In NYC, public school students will have off from school on Monday, February 8 in to allow the cities large Chinese population to celebrate. Better Chinatown USA, the organizer of the NYC parade uploaded several pages of photos that capture the atmosphere and joy surrounding the parade.

Of course, the biggest and best New Year celebrations are in China – from Beijing, to Shanghai, to Hong Kong – American news outlets cover parades and fireworks from across the Pacific with a bit less fanfare. CNN & NBC will cover the celebrations and likely air the fireworks live. In addition, the History Channel has provided educational videos and facts about the historical relevance and traditions of this holiday.

Were you lucky to be born in the year of the monkey?

Feel free to share your thought about this topic with us!


Myth Busting Cyber Charter Schools: Part 2


The difference between cost & curriculum – how does a cyber charter school & your local school district compare?

As we continue to look at some of the of cyber education in Pennsylvania, we take a look at some of the fundamental differences between your local school district’s online program and a full-fledged cyber charter school. How do you choose what is right for your child?

  • It is true that both cyber schools and district IU’s educate children online and there is a cost to both – but they are not the same. Cyber schools incur cost much differently than a traditional IU. IU’s can use teachers already salaried from the district, and pre-owned classroom equipment. Cyber schools must account for facilities for mandated testing and health screenings and provide each student with a computer, the essential software, all curriculum materials, a printer, and reimbursement for Internet access.
  • How much does it cost to send a child to cyber school? Cyber schools are funded through your state tax dollars, and is a percentage of your traditional districts per pupil allotment – which varies greatly depending on where you live. To date, there has been no comprehensive analysis of the per-pupil cost of cyber education in Pennsylvania. Cyber charter school leaders have repeatedly asked the legislature to convene a group to answer the question of the average cost to educate a child in a cyber charter school. In the absence of such data, opponents of cyber charter schools have circulated unsubstantiated and inaccurate numbers.

How does the curriculum stack up?

  • PA Virtual takes a look at each individual student to assess their learning needs instead of just trying to teach all of our students the exact same way.
  • In most cases, students who choose to learn online through their districts IU will be following the same curriculum as the district mandates, in a similar way, but with an online component.
  • PA Virtual and other cyber schools purchase nationally recognized curriculum programs from outside sources, which comply with the PA Core learning standards.
  • Districts have been able to develop their own online programs thanks to the pioneering efforts of cyber charter schools. If anything, the growth of district-level virtual academies demonstrates the demand for alternative learning environments.
  • It is our goal to foster innovation in the design and delivery of educational services. PA Virtual ensures the development of best practices that will improve student achievement through Innovation in Teaching and Learning Grants. Teachers who have collaborated to pilot successful instructional initiatives have gone on to present at national conferences on virtual learning.

Cyber education is a tuition- free public school option – the district sends a portion of your child’s per pupil allotment directly to the charter school of your choice, at no additional cost to you.

Feel free to share your thought about this topic with us!