Kyra Smith-Cullen is a PA Virtual graduate from the Class of 2011. She attended Lock Haven University to study Journalism and currently works as a copy editor for the Daily Item. In the following
article that was published in the Daily Item, Kyra shares and dispels some of the arguments that are made against cyber charter schools. Thank you Kyra for sharing your story!
“In Defense of Cyber Schools”
On June 10, I watched my youngest sister, Dimitria, graduate in a ceremony similar to my own. The principal made the same joke. Names were drowned out by families’ cheers — and an air horn. And, like me, she had never met most of the people she was graduating with.
Dimitria was a member of the seventh class to graduate from the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, or PAVCS. Our older sister, Tajya, was in the first and I was in the third. My brother, Kade, was the only one of us to graduate from a brick-and-mortar school, though Dimitria spent her academic career bouncing between the two. Tajya and I were home-schooled before joining PAVCS.
In the 13 years between starting PAVCS and Dimitria graduating, I have heard practically every argument against cyber schools.
One of the loudest arguments was how cyber schools weren’t held to the same academic standards as brick-and-mortar schools. We were encouraged to succeed on our tests and had to have a certain score in order to graduate. I had my core courses — math, English, history and science — along with my co-curricular courses and a mandatory test preparation class every semester. At one point, PAVCS switched to a schedule that was more in line with college, so courses were changed after 18 weeks and we were expected to keep pace.
Our teachers are like any other in the state, with licenses and proper certification, and they did the best they could to help us succeed. They had dedicated office hours and were available by appointment for tutoring program. It was drilled into our heads that, because we were cyber-schooled and under criticism, it was even more important to do our best because people would doubt our schooling.
At one point, I had a friend whose health issues forced her to consider alternative schools and her mother spoke to me about it. They’d gone to her school’s guidance counselor beforehand and mentioned they were considering cyber schools.
They were told that colleges didn’t consider cyber schools as valid high schools, the diploma wasn’t from an actual Pennsylvania school and it would make it difficult to have post-secondary education.
My classmates and I all graduated, received our very valid diplomas and moved on. They went to Cornell, Penn State, nursing schools or the military — and those are just among the people I talk to. Many of us who went to college were on the Dean’s List or graduated with honors.
I pride myself on my schooling. My grades were very important to me to through my entire academic career and I get slightly defensive when people suggest that, because I went to cyber school, things may have been easier for me. But the things I’ve achieved aren’t diminished by my education, they are supported by it. Tajya, Dimitria and I received a quality education at a cyber school and nothing will lessen that.