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The YMCA of Grays Harbor and the Hoquiam School District have teamed up to give students of all ages a chance to take classes outside a formal classroom environment.

The program is part of a new districtwide initiative that allows students to take classes online with the Y’s facilities and equipment.

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The state’s first online charter high school was unveiled at the Tuck Learning Center Monday, making it the first of its kind in New Hampshire and possibly New England.

The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School will offer New Hampshire students college-preparatory classes, advanced placement courses and special interest courses such as biology, computer science, calculus, economics or English and will benefit high school students who attend districts that do not have the student population or funding to offer advanced classes in these and other subjects.

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For years, fear of what might befall their child when the time came for higher learning made some parents reluctant to teach their kids at home through high school – or even at all. But that fear has dissipated as colleges become friendlier to the home-schooled – and more area home-schoolers show they can make it on campus – even at ages younger than their traditionally educated peers.

Homeschooling is widely accepted at public and private universities. Admissions officers are looking for students that can handle college. Where and how they obtain the skills and knowledge base isn’t as important. Most online homeschool programs offer support for the admissions process in the forms of transcripts and other services.

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This might look bad…until you read the response from the cyber school administrators.

Cybercharter schools tout themselves as a high-quality alternative to public schools for students who struggle in a conventional school setting.

The online schools offer the convenience of Web-based instruction and the ability to tailor courses to the academic strengths and needs of their students.

But when cybercharter schools are compared with brick-and-mortar schools using the state’s primary academic yardstick — the PSSA — they fall short.

Here’s some of the response.

Cybercharter school proponents argue that the biggest cyberschools in the state, which enroll about two-thirds of all online students, both made AYP this year.

They also say the state’s method of determining AYP gives more leeway to traditional public school districts than to cyberschools.

And because each cybercharter school can draw students from all over the state, those schools have more difficulty meeting the AYP requirement that at least 95 percent of students take the PSSA, which must be administered in person, not over the Internet.

Proponents also point out that cybercharter schools tend to enroll students who have failed in the public schools and don’t do well on standardized tests.

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With the growth of charter schools on the rise nationwide, it’s no surprise enrollment at Graham Digital Academy is seven times as large as it was just four years ago.

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“It’s difficult to do homeschool – for me I needed structure and I had to figure out what kind of curriculums I wanted to use,” says Harmon. “It’s a huge, daunting task.”

Harmon opted instead for a state-funded program through her school district that lets her kids study online. But that program – administered by the national company K12 Inc. – is only available in Utah through 8th grade. That will soon leave Harmon’s 7th grade son in limbo. So she and several other parents convinced the Utah State Board of Education to let them open the state’s first virtual K-through-12 charter school.

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Virtual learning just makes sense, says Robb Streeter, principal of South Carolina’s Cross High School.

“We shop online, bank online, do everything else online, so why not go to school online?” Streeter said.

Streeter is just one of many people across the state praising a new law signed by Gov. Mark Sanford (R) on May 17 creating the South Carolina Virtual School Program as an occasion for more students–especially higher-performing ones–to access academic courses their schools are unable to provide.

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The Midland-based Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School’s unparalleled growth rate continues, with an expected 25 percent enrollment increase and the hiring of 100 new employees.

PA Cyber officials announced Wednesday that enrollment for the upcoming 2007-08 school year is expected to hit 7,500, an increase of 1,500 over the 6,000 pupils who were educated through the online school last year.
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If you are interested in homeschooling online in Florida, this article gives the facts for the 2006-07 school year as well as links to accredited online schools. High school courses are also available for a fee worldwide.

The Nelson County School Board approved a new academy of virtual learning before the start of last school year, intending to connect the county’s home-schooled students with the community using the latest education-related technology.

The virtual school, however, is serving more out-of-county students than locals. Of the 50 students enrolled in the kindergarten-through-eighth grade virtual school last school year, only four were from Nelson.

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