Michigan reaches a major milestone in online learning this month --- Michigan Virtual Schools has enrolled 100,000 students for the current spring semester. Michigan Virtual Schools partners with K-12 schools to provide online courses, but the program isn't the only cyber learning option in the state.
Two cyber charter schools operate as full-time, K-12 virtual public schools. With one based out of Grand Rapids and one based out of Okemos, the schools enroll students across the state. The programs teach curriculum mandated by the state, and follow all the laws and guidelines like any regular public school. The difference -- their students take all their classes online.
About 20 teachers based in Okemos for the Michigan Connections Academy engage with students in virtual classrooms. Administrators say the program gives students and parents the flexibility to create a unique learning experience, and to set up a schedule that best fits their needs. They say the virtual model does take time and commitment from parents.
"So we develop a deep partnership because we want the kid to succeed," said Bryan Klochack, the principal at Michigan Connections Academy. "Within our environment, we're able to provide multiple learning opportunities to differentiate our instruction and our learning to help them with their path to success."
Some critics of cyber schools believe students don't perform as well in the virtual setting, but Klochack says they've seen many successes in their first two years of operation.
"We've received countless emails and communication from parents saying this has changed their child's life," Klochack said. "Because of this atmosphere, because of this style, because of this model, they've found great success. So it's really been a key turning them around or pushing them forward more than they were previously."
As enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year begins, Michigan Connections Academy is offering an information session tonight for parents to learn more about the program. It will be at the Okemos Conference Center on University Park Drive at 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Right now, the state currently allows only two cyber charter schools. There have been waiting lists to get into either of them for the past two years, and Klochack says he expects the same this next school year.
However, a new bill lifting the cap on cyber charter schools in the state is making its way through the state legislature. The senate has already approved the bill, and now it heads to the house floor.