For online learning, our Virtual Option is the right choice

For online learning, our Virtual Option is the right choice
Posted on 07/22/2020

Greeting Quakertown families! 


As Quakertown Community School District plans to embark on the 2020-21 school year, there is the potential for virtual instruction to be part of every student’s learning experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past few months, we have read your comments and feedback about your online experiences with us this past spring. I want you to know that QCSD’s Virtual Option will be far different this coming school year than the emergency model we employed last March after Gov. Tom Wolf quickly ordered all school buildings shuttered. Last spring’s online classes were optional and assignments ungraded as we worked with teachers to quickly to turn our brick-and-mortar school system into a virtual learning experience


With the start of a new school year, there has been time to develop a 100% Virtual Option that complements the district’s classroom instruction, and is a combination of asynchronous (self-paced) and synchronous (live) opportunities for instruction, participation, and feedback.  As Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards, the district’s Pandemic Coordinator, explained to the School Board on July 9th, “The virtual model will not be the same as we used last year. “It will have attendance and grading, it will be robust. It will not be fully synchronous but it will offer synchronous learning opportunities to meet parents’ and families’ needs.”

 

 QCSD’s new Virtual Option includes:

  •  The grading of student work and strong accountability for learning is present.
  •  Attendance is mandatory and will be determined by a variety of measures including log-in data, assignment completion, and grades.
  •  QCSD curriculum and assessments will be used consistently.
  •  Seesaw and Canvas will be used more consistently across classes and grade levels.
  •  Teachers will offer more synchronous (live) learning opportunities.
  •  Students will be able to participate in co-curricular and extracurricular school activities.

 It’s important that QCSD families have a good understanding of our Virtual Option as cyber charter schools continue to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to recruit students. In Pennsylvania, cyber charters are considered public schools and are taxpayer-funded. An article from 2017 indicates that “...12 of the state’s 14 cyber charter schools spent more than $21 million combined in taxpayer dollars promoting their schools…”  We don’t have the luxury within our budget to compete with their (your) advertising dollars. Additionally, when a student dis-enrolls from a Pennsylvania school district and enrolls in a charter school, dollars leave the district and shift to the charter.  For example, for this coming school year, approximately $15,000 would leave the QCSD for a regular education student and $30,000 for a student with disabilities. The amount is determined by the average student cost.


If you are considering having your student attend a cyber charter, there’s a significant amount of research that shows how their students perform. In 2019, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released a report that examines the impact of Pennsylvania Charter Schools from 2013-2017. Here’s a Philadelphia Inquirer story to examine. The 2015 analysis of Stanford University researchers found that 70 percent of students at cyber schools are falling behind their peers at traditional public institutions. The shortfall for most cyber school students, they said, was equal to losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days in math during the typical 180-day school year.


Because of the high quality of instruction by our teachers and overwhelming academic success of our students, enrollment of Quakertown students in charter programs is one of the lowest in Pennsylvania. The average participation rate of Quakertown students in charter schools is approximately 2.8% compared to the state average of more than 7%.

 

Each year U.S. News and World Report ranks high schools on a state and national basis. For 2020, Quakertown Community High School is rated 63rd of 671 high schools. The performance of Quakertown students on the College Board’s SAT has gone up more than 100 points over the past six years.

 

 Here’s how U.S. News ranked Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools:

 When it comes to your child(ren)’s academic success there’s no comparison. QCSD families are also well aware that school is so much more than academics. There’s the connection to the teacher, to the classroom, to the community. There’s the social-emotional aspect of learning. QCSD takes that very seriously. A 2019-20 Superintendent Goal specifically dealt with the “Culture of Safety, Security and Wellness.” For 2020-21, Superintendent Goals include “Academic Achievement and Support” and “Culture and Community Engagement.”


The district’s combination of academics, which includes 29 Advanced Placement courses - more than any other district in Bucks County - superior and award-winning music and athletic programs can’t happen in cyber charter schools.


Sure, I’m bragging about Quakertown. We have a wonderful community school district. I’m not just bragging about our awesome teaching staff, rigorous curriculum, and great building and district leadership teams. My bragging includes you and your students.  Our families are phenomenal and student performance is skyrocketing! I personally want to make sure you know that during these COVID-19 pandemic, we’re focused and dedicated to provide your child(ren) the very best in public education. 


If you are a 7th Grade through 12th Grade parent, I hope that you will be joining us tonight for the Town Hall Meeting regarding PowerSchool Registration for Academic Year ‘20-’21.


The very best in K12 education happens right here in QCSD, your home district. We’re in this together.  We are Quakertown!


Bill Harner

Superintendent

wharner@qcsd.org

Twitter: @billharner


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