Virtual schools increasing in popularity

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Virtual schools are increasing in popularity. These schools are different than charter schools. It’s an online-based curriculum and virtual schools give students who may not have any other options a chance of graduating high school with a diploma.

For the Quinn Family in Carmel, learning is a kind of choice.

“I don’t feel like any of my children fit in the traditional box,” said Lynette Quinn. “My little one has autism high functioning autism he’s very bright but a traditional environment is very over stimulating for him.”

Lynette’s son Tommy is at home every day with her, both as teacher and student they use Hoosier Academies Virtual school system. The flexibility of the school is what draws many to computer based schooling.

Dr. Byron Ernest is the head of schools for the Hoosier academies and says often times students come in way behind in their credits.

“This is an important population to serve those that have medical needs, those who have been bullied in their local schools, who have trouble with social type issues,” said Ernest.

Virtual schools in Indiana have been the center of some controversy. Hoosier Academies received an “F” rating from the Indiana Department of Education for the last five years in a row. Those grades are calculated by combining state testing scores and graduation rates and overall student growth.

Dr. Earnest says the rating system is inaccurate when assessing his school because he has a lot of kids coming in way behind that are still counted even if they’ve only been at Hoosier Academies for a short period of time.

“I think unfairly they are getting criticized to a degree,” said House Chair of the Education Committee Robert Behning. “Because of some of the problems we’ve had with some of our schools transferring kids to home schools that are very credit deficient and they show up in our virtual schools.”

The virtual schools try to help these students, usually at the bottom of their class graduate. Whose lap does that task fall into? Who else but the teachers.

Corrie Barnett is one of the many teachers Hoosier Academies, and she says she loves her job.

“We know that we are not for every family and I think it strikes a chord for me personally because of my own personal experience, and I want to be a part of helping these families that need this as an option,” said Barnett.

With the rise of post-secondary online schools, Behning believes this style of learning isn’t going anywhere.

“It’s going to be the trend of the future,” said Behning.

House Bill 1384 Dealing with charter schools, if passed will change how schools are graded by the DOE. It would make it so if a student isn’t in a specific school corporation for 90 percent of the school year, they will be counted where they spent the majority of the year.

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