Making the grade in cyber school

November 6, 2008 7:32:37 AM PST
Many experts call it the cutting edge of education, and last year 20-thousand children in Pennsylvania enrolled in cyber school. We examined one online school to find out laptops are turning living rooms into classrooms. Lev Boonin reports to class at 8am just like other 7th graders his age. But instead of taking the bus to school, he walks into his family room and logs on to his computer.

He tells Action News, "In PA cyber you can pretty much do everything you can do in a normal school except see the people."

Four years ago, Lev made the transition to an online school called PA Cyber Charter School after being bullied by his peers.

David Boonin, Lev's father said, "We didn't think Lev was living up to his potential in a traditional school. He was being distracted by the things around him - he wasn't getting the type of specialized support he needed."

PA Cyber Director Ronald Hall says online school is not home schooling. The regional director of PA Cyber says, "We know that different people learn in different ways."

PA Cyber is a part of the Pennsylvania School System. It is a charter school and there are no tuitions. Students are supplied with books and a laptop. So how do kids learn in cyber school?

"Kids can take classes in real time, live. You have a head set and a microphone electronic writing pad you report to class at a common time and you can hear your teacher and have common classmates."

Kids can also opt for a learning experience where they take courses on their own time. An option many student athletes find helpful if they're traveling during the school year. Each student is assigned what's called an instructional supervisor. That's a certified teacher who puts together a personalized class schedule for students. But what about the social aspect of school? Although cyber school is NOT home schooling, it is usually done at home, and students are missing the day to day interaction with others.

Boonin said, "Socialization is always a concern but sometimes the socialization they get at school is not a positive experience."

Hall adds, "Most of our families have a fairly active life outside of school they participate within their church group or civic group so that social context is often met outside the school."

For Lev, the switch to cyberschool has proved beneficial. He's gone from C's to A's. And Boonin said there's another advantage.

"It's allowed us to spend more time as a family together, which is a bonus."

PA Cyber had a graduation rate of 89.4-percent this year. It met 21 out of 21 targets in state testing. Lev says when he reaches high school he would like to return to traditional school but his parents say the family will take it one year at time.

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