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EDUCATION REPORT - July 10, 2003: Cyberschools - 2003-07-09

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

About twenty-one-thousand young people in seventeen American states do not attend classes in school buildings. Instead, they receive their elementary and high school education by working from home on computers. The Center for Education Reform says the United States has sixty-seven public “cyberschools.” The center says that is about two times as many as two years ago.

The money for students to attend a cyberschool comes from the public school systems where they live. Some experts say cyberschools receive money that should support traditional public schools. They also say it is difficult to know if students are learning well.

Other experts praise electronic education for letting students work at their own speed. These people say cyberschools help students who were unhappy or unsuccessful in traditional schools. They say learning at home by computer ends long bus rides for children who live far from school.

Whatever the judgment of cyberschools, they are growing in popularity. For example, a new cyberschool called Commonwealth Connections Academy will launch classes this fall. It will serve children in the state of Pennsylvania from ages five through thirteen. The state’s Department of Education gave the academy a three-year charter, an agreement permitting the school to operate.

Teachers and a director will operate the academy’s educational program from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Academy experts in Baltimore, Maryland will manage subject materials and technical services. Connections Academy already has opened three cyberschools. The academy is a private company that is part of the Sylvan Learning Centers. The centers have been developing educational programs for more than twenty years.

Children get free equipment for their online education. This includes a computer, printer, books and technical services. Parents and students communicate with teachers by telephone or by immediate message systems on their computers.

Students at cyberschools usually do not know one another. But fifty-six such students who finished studies at Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School recently met for the first time. They were guests of honor at their graduation ceremony.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.