One of the largest online charter schools in Georgia is closing its elementary school at the end of this school year, according to an email sent to parents by Georgia Connections Academy Executive Director Heather Robinson.
According to Robinson’s email, she states that “without question, the decision to close the K-5 Connections Academy after the 2017-2018 school year was extremely difficult.” Robinson’s email further stated the charter school authorizer decided to close the elementary school program due to consistently unsatisfactory scores “nor is it showing improvement according to the CCRPI (state report card)” for the past five years.
Georgia Connections Academy will continue operations in grades 6-12 through the rest of this school year and next school in 2018-2019 based on a renewal from the online charter school’s authorizer. Students currently in grade 5 expecting to be promoted to grade 6 will be able to attend the online charter school next year.
Carole Veschi, a parent of a high school student, said they received the email on January 5th. Veschi said she was disappointed to know that the school was closing the elementary portion of the program.
“Students needs different options for different personalities,” she said. Veschi said that it takes a lot of dedication from the student and the parent to work online. Veschi feels many parents who choose the online environment need to understand what that means.
“I think a lot of the online schools are getting kids that often do not test well in the regular school environment,” said Veschi.
The email further states that “students in grades K-4 will need to enroll in a different school for the 2018-2019 school year. Students may enroll in their district school according to their address/residence.” Furthermore, students looking to transfer will be able to do so after the end of current school year. The schools is also providing a townhall for parents to educate them of their options for next school year.
The Georgia General Assembly funds state charter schools from the state’s funding formula. The school’s performance has been less than stellar. Currently, the school services 4000 students statewide. In 2016, the Georgia Charter School Commission threatened to shut down them down, along with other similarly performing charters in the state, if their results did not improve. Their results are mainly based on standardized test scores linked inside of the CCRPI (state report card).
Online charter schools typically have a high student turnover rate which often affects the stability of the student if they are not used to the online learning environment and the school’s financial bottom line. Online charter schools often receive students that struggle in the brick-and-mortar environment who are brand new to online instruction. In Georgia, charter schools get roughly $5000 per student as opposed to traditional Georgia public schools who receive approximately $9200 per student on average.
The Georgia Charter School Commission, set up by the 2012 Georgia Charter School Amendment, which oversees state charter schools revokes or continues a school’s charter if the school does not have three more years of continuous improvement. Georgia Connections Academy has been on the Governor’s Office Student Achievement list of failing schools since 2015 and received underperforming grades four years prior.
The current research paints a grim picture of the online charter school landscape and some of the most prominent advocates are calling for education authorities to step up oversight on online school shut those down that are failing and this includes the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
Note of correction – Reports about Georgia Connections Academy’s enrollment, funding, and history of performance have been corrected from the original publication of this article.