What are charter schools? What are virtual charter schools?
The Oklahoma Charter Schools Act was established to allow for the creation of public charter schools with the purpose of improving student learning, increasing learning opportunities for students, encouraging the use of different and innovative teaching methods, providing academic choices for families, to require and create innovative measurements of learning, establish new forms of student accountability, and create new professional development opportunities for teachers. Charter schools are public schools established to allow greater flexibility for greater accountability. They operate under a performance contract, or a charter, with the authorization or sponsorship of a qualified public entity. While freed from some of the regulations created for traditional public schools, charter schools are held accountable for the operational, financial, and academic responsibilities of all Oklahoma public schools.
Virtual charter schools are charter schools whose students’ primary delivery of instruction is through online programs. To become a public virtual charter school in Oklahoma, the school must be authorized or sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.
What is the primary purpose of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board?
The purpose of the Board is to serve as the sole authority to authorize and sponsor virtual charter schools in the State of Oklahoma.
Does the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board serve other purposes?
In 2015, Oklahoma statute added additional responsibilities to the duties of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. This includes the certification of online courses, contracting for a fair state price, and making the Oklahoma Supplemental Online Course Program (OSOCP) known to the public. Districts are required to provide access to online courses, particularly STEM, Advanced Placement, and foreign language courses, to individual students who request this instructional option. Additional information about the Oklahoma Supplemental Online Course Program can be found at osocp.ok.gov.
How was the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board created?
Oklahoma legislation created the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. Five voting members, each representing one of the five Oklahoma Congressional Districts, compose the Board. One member is appointed by the Governor and is a resident and elector of the Fifth Congressional District. Two members are appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and represent the First and Third Congressional Districts. Two members are appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and represent the Second and Fourth Congressional Districts. In addition, two ex-officio nonvoting members, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Secretary of State and Education, are a part of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.
What are the responsibilities of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board?
Subject to the requirements of the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board has four responsibilities:
- Provide oversight of the operations of statewide virtual charter schools;
- Establish a procedure for accepting, approving and disapproving statewide virtual charter school applications and a process for renewal or revocation of approved charter school contracts which minimally meet the procedures set forth in the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act;
- Make publicly available a list of supplemental online courses, of high quality options and aligned with the subject matter standards adopted by the State Board of Education; and
- Negotiate and enter into contracts with supplemental online course providers to offer a state rate price to school districts for supplemental online courses that have been reviewed and certified by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. (70-3-145.3)
Who are the schools authorized and sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board?
The Board has authorized a number of virtual charter schools serving a range of grade levels, including prekindergarten through twelfth grade students. The names and contact information for each of these schools can be found on the Schools section of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board website at svcsb.ok.gov/schools.
Are authorized virtual charter schools considered to be public schools and are they accredited?
All schools authorized by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board are Oklahoma public schools and are accredited by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. These virtual charter schools assume the same rights and responsibilities of other public schools in the State of Oklahoma.
What is the process that a potential virtual charter school must follow to become a Statewide Virtual Charter School?
A potential virtual charter school must follow the process and timeline adopted by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to become a public virtual charter school. Guidance for the authorization process can be found on the Authorization section of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board website.
How are virtual charter schools held accountable?
Central to the accountability of the virtual charter schools sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board is the charter contract between the school and sponsor. The expectations of the school are defined through the application and contract process between the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and the charter school governing board.
In addition to the responsibilities of the charter contract between the school’s governing board and the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, sponsored schools are public schools and subject to all laws and regulations and to the reporting requirements of the State Department of Education, including financial accountability and accreditation requirements.
Virtual charter schools are also accountable to their own governing bodies. The expectation of the governing body is that its members will maintain high performance standards for the school and take corrective action as needed. This governing board’s responsibility is to serve the families and students it represents.
What are some of the most common reasons why families choose to enroll their student in a virtual charter school?
Families choose enrollment in a virtual charter school for a variety of reasons. In a spring 2015 survey, families reported health and wellness, school safety, personal student goals, and family involvement as primary reasons for selecting a virtual charter school as their education choice.
What type of student benefits from full-time online education?
Research supports the ideal that digital technologies offer opportunities for improved learning and opportunities for increased active involvement in learning experiences. It is clear that full-time virtual schooling is a good fit and valuable opportunity for some students, but that is not necessarily true for every student. For academic success in a full-time online education environment, the following two factors should be present.
- Full-time online education requires a high capacity for independent and motivated learning without the daily face-to-face guidance of teachers or the social environment that traditional schools offer. To be successful, the student must have a strong work ethic and the motivation needed to work consistently and independently.
- Full-time online education requires a high degree of home support and parental involvement for student success. A parent, or other responsible adult, must provide daily supervision to ensure the education benefit for the student. Without this type of supportive environment, enrollment in a more traditional school may offer a better fit.
How are virtual charter schools funded?
Virtual charter schools sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board are public schools and funded through the Oklahoma State Department of Education based on student enrollment. Some exceptions, such as transportation and nutrition funding, apply to school funding calculations. Virtual charter schools are eligible for federal funds but do not receive local funding and do not have bonding capacity.