On Oct. 12, News & Observer reporters Lynn Bonner and David Raynor published an article about North Carolina’s virtual schools. As superintendent of North Carolina Connections Academy, one of the state’s virtual public schools, I had multiple conversations with Lynn to inform the story, and I’d like to thank her for delivering a balanced piece about online schools.
Though our first year of EOG test results in 2016 showed some positives, we were disappointed with the overall performance. It is not uncommon for first-year virtual school students to go through an adjustment period as they adapt, but it is our top priority to help students achieve their academic best on state tests each year. As such, we developed a robust action plan for the 2016-17 school year. We used several tactics to improve our test scores, such as our traveling academy program, where students have an opportunity to meet with teachers in person for additional instruction. As a result, our test scores improved in reading and math in comparison to the previous year. It’s a testament to the many dedicated teachers at our school for implementing these enhancements while working with reduced funding compared to traditional public or traditional public charter schools. We’re actively working to continue improving these scores.
I’d also like to address another point from the article: the virtual school withdrawal rate. It’s important to note that our school – and most virtual schools – serves a highly mobile student population. Many families enroll for a short period to address a short-term issue (academically, socially or personally). Once the family has navigated through an issue, they may decide to return to their previous school, which leads to our withdrawal rate being higher than what is typically seen in traditional public school. We appreciate the legislature’s recent decision to appropriately update this calculation to better reflect our flexible student population.
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We’re proud to offer a public school option for students like Clark Eselgroth, an aspiring professional ballet dancer, who require greater flexibility due to a very demanding extracurricular schedule. In our 2017 parent satisfaction survey, 92 percent of parents agreed that their child was making good progress with Connections Academy. We are committed to helping all our students reach their academic goals, and we’re thankful to operate in a state where school choice options are accepted, so families can find the best education option to fit their students’ learning needs.
Superintendent, North Carolina Connections Academy