Eight cyber charter school operators — including two which would operate in Philadelphia — are finding just how perilous the road to having their first class can be, as the Pennsylvania Department of Education recently denied their charter application due to a host of shortcomings and inadequacies.
The cyber charter schools applicants denied charters are Insight Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in Delaware County; Mercury Online Cyber Charter School and the V3 Cyber Charter School in Dauphin County; Pennsylvania Career Path Cyber Charter School in Lehigh County; PHASE 4 Americana Cyber Charter School in Allegheny County and the Urban Cyber Charter School in York County.
Akoben Cyber Charter School and the MB Resiliency Cyber Charter School are the two Philadelphia-area operators to have their charters denied; in their applications, both charters indicated that their curriculum would be one based on African American heritage.
Repeated calls and e-mails to Akoben and MB Resiliency seeking comment weren’t returned as of Tribune press time.
According to the PDE, Akoben’s charter was denied because it didn’t meet application requirements, including proving it had sustainable support, had the proper facilities from which to operate, along with questions regarding Akoben’s governance, finances, curriculum, the institution of an English as a second language — ESL — program, along with professional development for teachers. The PDE also cited special education requirements, technology and a comprehensive school-improvement plan as further reasons for denying Akoben’s charter.
The same reasons were given for declining MB Resiliency’s charter as well.
“The proposals submitted by the applicants lack adequate evidence and sufficient information of how prospective students would be offered quality academic programs,” said PDE Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis in a statement released by his office. “In addition, the financial plans presented call into question each applicant’s ability to maintain a long-term, viable educational program for the benefit of Pennsylvania students.”
According to MB Resiliency’s application submitted last October, the charter would be operated by Shalom, Inc., and would have been located at 1080 N. Delaware Ave. Interestingly, on its application, Shalom Inc. indicated it had not obtained a physical facility to house the school – or in its case, a facility that would house the administrative wing of the charter school.
“MB Resiliency Cyber Charter School is dedicated to the belief that every child can learn outcomes can be definitively measured. It is the primary goal of this educational institution to provide an educational opportunity with clearly stated academic and non-academic goals,” read, in part, MB Resiliency’s application. “Using a Brick and Click model for delivering education, MB Resiliency Cyber Charter School will be able to provide non-academic programs for assisting students with the development of emotional intelligence and life skills.”
Regarding Akoben, on its initial 2011 application, it lists Concerned Parents of Philadelphia as the founding organization, and like MB Resiliency, it too listed on its application that it had not procured a proper physical facility.
“An additional factor in the denials is that many of the applicants proposed to use learning centers in a way that blurred the line between a brick-and-mortar and cyber charter school,” read a note provided by the PDE. “A fundamental difference exists between brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools, and learning centers are not to be used as an alternative to the brick-and-mortar model.
“Each applicant has the option to address the deficiencies and resubmit the application to the PDE for reconsideration or appeal the decision to the State Charter Appeal Board.”