What is a Cyber Charter School?

Cyber Charter Schools in Pennsylvania


Cyber charter schools are independent public schools serving students across the state. Each cyber charter school is established and operates under a charter approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. There are currently 15 cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania, nine of which offer grades K-12. The first cyber charter school in Pennsylvania was founded in the late 1990s.

Cyber charter schools leverage technology to provide both curriculum and instruction to students. Cyber schools either ship physical curriculum materials to their students or utilize online materials. Students attend class from a home-based setting via a school-loaned computer. State-certified teachers deliver lessons through a variety of web-based platforms. As public schools, cyber charter schools are required to participate in all state-mandated standardized testing.

Modes of Instruction

One of the many reasons families pursue school choice is to increase flexibility in their schedule. Each cyber charter school utilizes a combination of the following modes of instruction in the structure of their school day.

Students taking synchronous courses attend live classes on a regular basis, allowing them to have real-time interaction with their teachers and peers. These courses are a great choice for students and families looking for a structured schedule where students can receive direct feedback from their teacher during class.

On the other hand, students in an asynchronous model do not meet for classes at a scheduled time, instead developing an individualized schedule for completing lessons and assignments with the guidance and support of their teacher and parent. This path offers students more flexibility and the ability to complete work on a schedule that works best for them.

Teachers

Cyber charter schools employ state-certified teachers to deliver instruction. In live classes, teachers instruct using an online classroom with a webcam and microphone, engaging and interacting with students through the use of technology. Students that participate in independent classes are assigned a teacher to supervise their work, provide feedback, and ensure academic progress is being made.

Curriculum

Every school makes a choice on which curriculum to use. Some cyber schools implement nationally-utilized curriculums, others utilize a combination of curriculums based on subject matter, and a few have developed their own curriculum. This is a key differentiator between cyber charter schools.

Socialization

Students collaborate with their classmates both in class and through group assignments. Students also socialize with their peers outside of the virtual classroom, with many cyber charters schools planning and organizing fields trips for their families to attend throughout the school year. Many schools also offer virtual clubs, activities, and assemblies that give students the opportunity to engage with their classmates. Additionally, cyber school students are eligible to participate in extracurricular activities and organized athletics offered in their local school district. PA Virtual organizes field trips across the state each month; learn more about places we visited this year.

Parent Involvement

Having a supportive adult at home is crucial in the K-12 online model. While every cyber charter school is different, the need for a dedicated parent or guardian is essential for the success of the student. When parents are involved in their children’s education, test scores rise, drop-out rates decline, and students become lifelong learners.

Post-Secondary Opportunities

Students in cyber charter schools receive a high school diploma just like graduates from a traditional public school. Graduates from cyber charter schools go on to meet their post-secondary goals: attending university, community college, or vocational schools, enlisting in the military, or entering the workforce.

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