To the Editor:
As part of your recent special investigation exploring online charter schools, you focused on GOAL Academy in Colorado and, in a sterile analysis of numbers, looked at low test scores, high dropout rates, and low day-to-day student engagement and deemed the school a “failure” (“Rewarding Failure: An Education Week Investigation of the Cyber Charter Industry”).
But when you look at GOAL’s work in a more real-world context, it actually stands as an example of how online charter schools provide opportunities and value to students who have fallen through the cracks or otherwise been left behind by traditional education.
GOAL serves approximately 4,000 students. Ninety-eight percent of them qualified as “at risk” in October 2015, and virtually all have been routinely failed by the traditional school system. For these students, GOAL is a godsend.
Comparing GOAL to traditional schools that are not primarily composed of at-risk students and declaring it a “failure” is an inaccurate and fundamentally unfair assessment. The challenges in these students’ lives—the demands of work,home, and child and parent care—don’t disappear when they enroll in GOAL. So it’s not surprising that these students don’t religiously log in to their school accounts each and every day.
Online schools such as GOAL Academy are built on the philosophy that the traditional Monday through Friday, 8 a.m to 3 p.m. school day is not for everyone and that students deserve—and, in many cases, need—a choice in how they are educated. Online charters are giving hard-to-reach students something that traditional schools have never given them: real opportunities for academic success.
There are numerous public schools that year in and year out, for decades, have yielded low test scores, high dropout rates, and low day-to-day student engagement. Yet, despite their glaring, painful lack of success in educating students, they continue to operate and receive funding and funding increases. Would Education Week characterize their continued existence as “rewarding failure”? It seems unlikely.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Center for Education Reform
A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 2017 edition of Education Week as Cyber Charters Offer At-Risk Students a Chance at Success