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Pennsylvania taps the brakes on cyber charter schools

No cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania made AYP in 2012.

All eight applications for new cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania for the 2013-14 school year have been rejected, a decision that comes as state legislators debate charter school funding and as existing cyber charter schools have taken a hit for missing state academic goals.

Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis announced the decision Jan. 28, citing deficiencies in each application and calling into question what cyber charter schools really are.

“An additional factor in the denials is that many of the applicants proposed to use learning centers in a way that blurred the line between a brick-and-mortar and cyber charter school,” the department’s news release stated.

A growing trend in education—among regular public and charter schools alike—is blended learning, which combines face-to-face and online instruction.

Some of the state’s existing 16 cyber charter schools have added opportunities for face-to-face instruction, such as in-person tutoring centers. Under the state charter school law, cyber charter schools must offer a “significant” portion of their programs through the internet or other electronic means. They cannot require students to attend in person, with some exceptions such as state testing.

(Next page: Questions about funding, academic achievement)

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