Last week Glenda Ritz wrote about the dismal performance of the Indiana Virtual School and the Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy [Stop state money to virtual schools, Forefront, March 8]. While I couldn’t agree more that this school should suffer consequences for failing to serve students, she makes a hefty leap calling for the General Assembly to revoke funding to virtual charter schools. It is not fair to paint all virtuals with such a broad brush.
Our virtual school follows the same regulations as any other public school in Indiana. We require and record attendance. We require students to attend state testing. We require that our teachers be talented, committed and certified. We require teachers and students to interact regularly and authentically. Comparing one traditional school to another never works because every school serves a different population of students with a vastly different staff in many ways. The same is true for virtuals.
At Indiana Connections Academy, engagement is our priority. Our staff members talk to students daily. It is not unusual for a teacher in our school to have 200 individual phone conversations in a month. It is not unusual for a counselor to be so concerned about a student that he/she drives three hours to check on that student. It is not unusual for our dean of engagement (in charge of habitual truancy) to report he “only cried three times” this week because of his passion for and diligent attention to student need.
Are virtual schools a viable option for every student? Probably not. All virtual schools operate differently. Don’t lump us all into the same category. We are working hard, every single day, to make certain that students get what they need. Come find out for yourself—my school is open to anyone who wants to learn more.
Melissa Brown, Indiana Connections Academy executive director