No Virtual Charter School In New Jersey For Now


Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

Esthere Tolbert’s 10-year old son Micah was supposed to start school in the fall at a Newark-based virtual charter school, where all classes are taught online to home-based students. But that changed recently when New Jersey education commissioner Christopher Cerf denied the school’s final application.

“We’re very surprised, very shocked,” said Tolbert. “We’d like to invite the commissioner to come and visit with us and … answer to us why can’t we have this education for our children.”

In a letter to Cerf, school board officials from the New Jersey Virtual Academy Charter School had similar questions noting they’ve already enrolled 850 students and hired teachers for their K-12 school based in Newark. Cerf also denied the charter for a second proposed virtual charter school for high school dropouts based in Tinton Falls, citing legal concerns and questions about oversight as reasons for rejecting what would have been New Jersey’s first virtual charter schools. Opponents to virtual charters echoed Cerf’s concerns.

“I think the most fundamental reason is they don’t work,” according to Susan Cauldwell from the group Save Our Schools NJ. “Study after study show children who attend virtual charters schools perform far worse than students in traditional public schools. Virtual charter schools are another on scarce public resources.”

Another concern of Cauldwell is that a for-profit company, K12 Inc., the nation’s largest online education firm, has ties to both schools. She questions whether online learning is suitable for every child, saying “the thought of a kindergartner sitting for 4 or 5 hours a day in front of a computer screen leaves me cold. That’s not the way children should be educated.”

But a company spokesperson points out K-12 courses are used in over 2,000 school districts in all 50 states. They help dropouts get a diploma and provide a safe alternative from bullying or dangerous schools. Micah’s mom agrees.

“I like this way of learning because it allows me to see a couple things — exactly what my child is learning I get to back up everything he’s learning because I’m right there with him helping him learn as well as the fact that he gets to learn more advanced if he wants to,” said Tolbert.

Meanwhile, officials from both virtual charter schools are asking Cerf to reconsider his decision. But with strong opposition from groups like the NJEA and Save Our Schools, it’s unlikely that will happen anytime soon.

  • Taimi Juarez

    My daughter Abigail cried when she heard the news. I would like to ask Mrs S. Cauldwell if she thinks that using a computer to learn doesn’t work. Why is the school system using tablets in Elizabeth,N.J. and other parts of the state? What does the school system do when a child is behind? I’ll tell you they say the child needs one to one attention by a teacher that cares. Isn’t that exactly what this online school would do? Let’s see on one hand we have the teacher that they can speak to at any time,and on the other hand you have the mother. So this school provides both the caring adult, and the professional. Maybe Mrs. Cauldwell should go back and study what environment a child really need to learn better and faster.

    • Save Our Schools NJ

      Please don’t confuse blended learning and online content with opening NJ to virtual charter schools. Commissioner Cerf did the right thing by rejecting this application!

      It would be a terrible mistake to give permission to the discredited for-profit firm K12 to pocket millions of our tax dollars. K12 is being sued by its own investors who allege “that defendants misrepresented and/or failed to disclose materially adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations and prospects.” (1)

      Virtual charters have produced consistently horrible academic results in other states. Most recently, all 16 of Pennsylvania’s virtual charter schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress and two of them are involved in federal corruption investigations.(2)

      If a virtual charter opened in New Jersey, it would divert approximately $12,000 in profits to K12, for every student that enrolls, further depleting already strained public school budgets. In Pennsylvania, virtual charter costs came to $366 million this year alone, despite virtual charters’ abysmal academic performance.

      Virtual charter also are not allowed under New Jersey’s charter school law, which requires that schools have buildings where children are educated, prohibiting virtual charter schools.

      You can absolutely advocate form more online content provided by our public schools, But why would any parent want to see all of our tax dollars wasted by being divert to profits for K12?

      (1) Source: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20120314006200/en/Law-Firm-Levi-Korsinsky-Notifies-Investors-Losses
      (2) http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/component/flexicontent/items/item/55097-rising-cyber-charter-costs-fuel-push-for-statewide-reform?utm_source=newsworks-nl&utm_medium=fbstory&utm_content=05-23-2013&utm_campaign=newsletter-inbound

  • Esthere Tolbert

    I am really so upset and angry with Susan Cauldwell and the statements she made. She showed up to our demo at the Statehouse the other week in Trenton and misrepresented herself in front of us and my minor child – posing as someone else and not revealing her true identity! What kind of example does this set? Her behavior is deceitful and underhanded, not to mention unethical. Obviously, there must have been a reason she felt she had to hide her identity. Maybe she didn’t want to deal with any confrontations or possibly suddenly realize that a virtual academy is a great way of learning and just one of many public school options. We’re not trying to close public schools, we want all public schools to thrive, but we also want parents and students to have options to fit their individual learning needs.

    Susan Cauldwell came in to our demo with an attitude and a hidden agenda. She is so misinformed. How can she say that a child sits in front of a computer screen for 4 hours, when we filled up at least 4 long tables full of required readings and curriculum? Is she blind or just misrepresenting the facts?

    I can’t remain silent. I have to let others know how she is representing her organization. I’d also like to see the documentation on her statistics that claims virtual doesn’t work. We need to get into a discussion with “Save Our Schools” and let’s come together with the facts instead of assumptions, innuendos, and hearsay. The first thing I would want to criticize would be their slogan, “Save our Schools.” I’m about educating students and making sure they receive the best education possible. It’s disappointing that Susan Cauldwell has to misrepresent herself during our demo instead of having an open and honest dialogue.

  • Robyn from NJ

    Here’s a possible compromise: Let NJVACS open for a trial period of 2 years (or some agreed on time period) and let the results speak for themselves. NJVACS has great potential and I know that homeschooling is amazing!

    • NJ Parent

      We have numerous other states’ data to examine, and their abysmal “results” have spoken for themselves – that is exactly why we do not want to expose children and waste our education funding on it.

  • Serina Montalvo

    I am also very saddened and confused by this decision! Why is this curriculum approved in many states, but not good enough for the state of New Jersey? I We have two boys, ages 19 and 8 years old. My family moved to New Jersey from Washington state, where this same k12 Virtual Charter Academy is used (known as WAVA). I used WAVA to homeschool my son, then in 7th grade and absolutely loved it! We were very ecstatic to enroll our soon to be 3rd grader for the 2013-2014 school year.
    This is more than just an online school. I believe that home education may not be for everyone, but if a parent is able and willing what is the big out cry against it? NJVA is considered a public online charter school, therefore everything that you need to have a successful year is provided to you. Resources, supplies, certified teacher involvement, access to other homeschooled children in your area etc. Children are even required to still partake in all the required state testing! The only difference is that they are being educated at home with one on one supervision and help instead of the divided attention of a teacher in a classroom of 26 kids. They have the ability to excel at their own speed and MASTER the work before being moved forward. That is very important to me,
    When my older son took the placement test upon enrolling into WAVA, he was assessed to be in 5th grade math. He was in 7th grade at the time! WAVA allowed my son to work at his level in different subjects which allowed him to advance quickly. It is well known that homeschooled children by enlarge are 1- 1 1/2 years more advanced than their peers attending public schooling. Being pushed along each subject because the teacher has to follow and finish the curriculum given to her may work for some kids. They may even manage passing to the next grade, like my son did, but if your child hasn’t had the chance to cully grasp the concept of what is being taught, too bad for him. That’s not my idea of successful schooling.
    To respond to Miss Cauldwell’s statement of being left cold to the thought off a kindergartner in front of the computer. My answer is every child has the right to be educated and with that education should be given all the necessary and available tools that will cause that child to be successful. No cookie cutter way is going to work for everyone. Home education gives parents the ability to take charge of their child’s education and expand, explore and cultivate the things around them. My 8 yr old is in school from 8:30- 3:00pm. He doesn’t go outside of his classroom, except for lunch (30 min), recess (30 min), gym 2 days a week and music once a week. Hmmm.

    • Lona

      I echo your sentiments. After months of assuring that every necessary enrollment document met with approval, it was more than disappointing to learn that for a second time K12 has been kicked to the proverbial curb. The fears expressed by Newark’s school administrators are not only archaic, but unfounded as well. It is my profound hope, that after an earnest re-examination of the facts, there will be a reversal of what has proven to be a real blow to not only we parents, but the children as well.We need, deserve and are entitled to options in education. Please do the right thing!

    • NJ Parent

      I believe it is because we’ve learned from the abuses and abysmal results of allowing K12 to operate in other States. NJ is fortunate to not have exposed children and taxpayers to K12’s scam as other States did.

  • Rosa

    I am very disappointment with the decision that was made. My son is 10 years old and he has faced bullying from other students. Teachers still do not know how to really deal with bullying and the students have to deal with this everyday. My son has an IEP and I think I would be able to help him better the school system.

  • denise

    My child saw something or heard
    Now she got to see a doctor every 2 weeks
    And someone was picking on her and she told the principal and the principal told my child to tell her teacher and the teacher said she can’t help my child because the teacher didn’t see it. The teacher tell the kids to shut the F:::: up. Please the NJVACS open for the kids please………
    My nephew was suspend from School because a bully hit him and my nephew hit him back The teacher suspend him not the bully because she saw only my nephew not the bully
    So please keep the NJVACS Open Please

  • carol

    I am very disappointed!! we are thinking of moving back to nj to help our elderly parents,so I have been keeping up with njvacs .our 9yr old is enrolled in GCA k12 and we love it! you DO NOT sit in front of the computer all day!! we go on field trips with & without the school,PE class at the Y with other homeschoolers that use different curriculums,k12 works best for us. so I say to all of you who are opposed, All kids learn differently,the cookie cutter way has to go!!parents want and need choice!! Give njvacs a chance,what are you affaid of????

  • Save Our Schools NJ

    Some very helpful insights from PA about the disaster that are virtual charter schools:

    “Our state has allowed unchecked cyber charter growth, and the consequences have been grave. Cyber charter school growth has further harmed funding-starved districts and incentivized unregulated district-run cyber programs. The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania is deeply troubled by the financial costs. But more devastating are the educational consequences of these programs. Students enrolled in Pennsylvania cyber charter schools are not receiving a quality education.

    Attorneys at ELC have heard from the families of many students attending cyber charter schools. Here’s what those families have reported: Students spending countless hours behind computer screens without any required human interaction; students with disabilities who are not receiving any appropriate academic instruction; and students who have been pushed into computer-based programs as a result of behavioral incidents.

    There’s conclusive quantitative evidence, as cited in the article, that Pennsylvania cyber charter school students are failing to meet academic standards and are academically trailing their counterparts in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Now a new national study released this month shows the failure of these schools — throughout the country — to meet any kind of academic standards.

    “Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2013″ released by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder revealed that in the 2010-2011 school year there was a 28 percentage point difference between full-time virtual schools and traditional brick-and-mortar district and charter schools meeting adequate yearly progress benchmarks on standardized tests: 23.6 percent compared with 52 percent, respectively.

    Additionally, the on-time graduation rate for the full-time virtual schools was less than half the national average: 37.6 percent versus 79.4 percent.”

    Source: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local//speak-easy/55334-the-true-costs-of-unchecked-charter-growth

    • Lona

      This biased report, is just another attempt to demonize virtual education, while touting the flawed merits of traditional brick and mortar schools Both are far from perfec, however perfection is not the issue, the right to choose is. Today’s world most experienced has experienced countless unforseen changes. Changes, eliciting unforseen choices. Technological changes, sexuality changes, political changes, to mention a few. Why then should education lag behind ? The simple truth is Stop throwing up smoke screens and admit that the issue is all about money is all about money.

      • Lona

        Hope you understood my prior post, that predictive keyboard can make you sound stupid when it types what it wants. Lol!

  • Susie

    I want to voice my 13 yr old son’s voice!!!! He was looking forward to Virtual Schooling, due to his ENTIRE 6th grade year, he was bullied, pushed around, told that he was lazy and told he was just playing around, by his Teachers, Couselor, and who ever else they wanted to pull in for my MANY.MANY trips to school. He did manage to get ONE of his bullies in the office….but BOTH boys were sent home!!?? After that he would NOT open his mouth or try to reach out for help, because it made it worse. Both of us were ALL ready to leave this school behind and jump in with both feet to Virtural NJ School…..BUT ….NO, they pull the funding for this. I had to tell my son he’s got to go back to his district school…… I will be fighting with this child EVERYDAY to MAKE him go to school. This is NOT fair….at all!!! I NEED this NJVS to be ok’d and the virtual school to be avaible to my son. WHat other choices do I have for him? It’s just not fair!!!

  • Tammy

    My daughter has emotional problems. She was suspended from school 5 times last year which as a result, caused me to miss a lot of time from work and get reprimanded. I need my job. I need to work to provide food and shelter for my children. And I need my daughter to have an education. She cannot function in a regular school setting plain and simple. I’m about to let her drop out because I simply have no other option now that the NJ cyber school option is no longer available. So how is this helping our kids? Guaranteed if the dept. of education conducts a study in NJ now that this decision has been made they will see a larger numbe of drop outs. Way to go. Thanks a lot.