A pitch to expand online education

A student going to school on the web. (Photo: Anna Tamila)

Like many families throughout California, ours is taking the important step of beginning another school year. Although we live in Sacramento County, my sons will be attending an excellent public school in Sutter County. Or, more precisely, the school will be coming to them.

My sons attend the California Virtual Academies (CAVA), an online public charter school offered throughout the state and certified by the state of California. CAVA is among a growing list of diploma-granting virtual education schools in our state.

State lawmakers must embrace the benefits of virtual schools and the positive contributions they make to our children’s education.

Thanks to Governor Jerry Brown, California has recently made some giant strides in public education. Now I, speaking on behalf of many parent leaders, believe state lawmakers must join the governor’s enthusiasm and embrace the benefits of virtual schools and the positive contributions they make to our children’s education.

For many children, a traditional school setting simply is not a good fit. A child might find the classroom is not moving at the right pace, depending on whether they are gifted learners or need more one-on-one instruction. In some cases, a child might have medical reasons or other challenges that make it difficult for them to participate productively in a group environment.

Technology makes this possible, but it doesn’t mean students in virtual schools are lacking measurement standards, opportunities for socialization or personal support from teachers. Public virtual school students are partnered with teachers who meet with them and help track their progress, and group activities are arranged throughout the school year, including museum visits, field trips and club projects.

Academic standards for online schools are just as high as those at other public schools. Our teachers are state-certified, and student academic progress is rigorously monitored by state education officials.

More than half of the states in the U.S. now have statewide online public schools. And for parents in California, public virtual education gives them unprecedented freedom to access a school program that works best for their children, a freedom that used to be limited to families who could afford private schools.

Let’s continue Governor Brown’s vision for excellence in education and ensuring that all students, regardless of where they attend school, have the opportunity to succeed.

Ed’s Note:  Louise Arias is a board member of California Parents for Public Virtual Education.  She is a former principal of the Elk Grove Unified School District.

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