This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
For many, "Cyber Monday" may mean shopping.
But for the more than 35,000 Pennsylvania students attending the state’s 16 cyber charter schools, it’s just another day of the hitting the e-books.
The question now is: Should those numbers climb higher?
In the last few weeks, six prospective cyber school operators have made pitches to the state Department of Education in hopes of gaining a charter.
Looking at the performance of the 16 existing cyber charters, some education advocates say the state’s decision should be easy.
The Philadelphia-based nonprofit Research for Action found Pennsylvania’s cyber charters to be some of the lowest-performing schools in the state when it analyzed the state’s recently released School Performance Profile information.
Of the 11 cyber charters for which information was available, none met the the statewide average for publicly funded schools (77.2). The state’s cyber charters received a score of 44.7, far below the scores of brick-and-mortar charters (67.3) and traditional public schools (77.8).
Researchers also found that the average rate of annual student turnover was higher for cyber schools. In 2011-12, an average of 27 percent of the students in cyber charters withdrew from school. For brick and mortar charters, the rate was 9 percent.