Recently, the Indiana Department of Education posted the A-F grades for schools for the 2014-2015 academic school, year.
Some of the performances of virtual public charter schools (VPSs) were disappointing. Since virtual schools provide a literal home based education, VPS’s are sometimes mistaken for homeschooling. It is important to remember there are significant differences between homeschooling and VPS’s.
The key distinction is that a VPS is a public school and receives tax dollars for its operation. The only real difference between a brick and mortar public school and a VPS is the location of the student. Curriculum and on-line instruction in a VPS are provided by public school teachers and the testing and grading system of the traditional public school applies.
In the theory of the VPS model, parents are supposed to be available to help their children and consequently grades should be higher with the increased parental involvement. Unfortunately, by the measure of academic achievement, several VSP’s are struggling to provide a good academic education to their enrollees.
Two of the major VPS’s did not achieve passing grades – Hoosier Academy Virtual Charter (HAVC) (or K-12 as it is commonly called) received an “F” and Indiana Connections Academy (INCA) received a “D.” Both schools have received the same letter grade for several years.
A partial explanation could be the rapid growth in enrollment experienced by both schools:
HAVC had 204 students in 2011 and 4,151 by 2014. INCA experienced similar growth going from 266 students in 2011 to 3,412 in 2015.
The concern for homeschoolers is to maintain the distinction between VPS’s and homeschooling. A definition of homeschooling is 51% of the child’s education being provided by the parent independent of the state.
We should be aware that if VPS’s continue to underperform the state will attempt to make regulatory changes.
Maintaining the distinction between a VPS and a homeschool is very important because homeschoolers do not want to be inadvertently regulated simply because the child in a VPS is educated in the home.
Ian Slatter is the Office Manager at the Tindley Preparatory Academy, a charter school near downtown Indianapolis. From 2003 – 2011 he was the Director of Media Relations at Home School Legal Defense Association. While earning his MPA from Regent University, he worked as an assistant/writer at the Weekly Standard. He then moved to Capitol Hill and served as a legislative assistant and, later, communications director for Congressman Mike Pence. Ian and his wife, Alison, live in Greenwood, Indiana and have 3 children.