Oregon Magazine
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Oregon Charter School 
Showing Rapid Growth

     By Fred Delkin

     Need has fueled the rapid rise of Oregon Connections Academy, which 
opened its third year as an in-home charter school August 29th.  Enrollment
is expected to meet or exceed 2,000 students throughout Oregon.  ORCA
seems an appropriate acronym for the Pacific Northwest branch of a 
learning program that currently serves grades K-11 in Arizona, California,
Idaho, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania; grades 4-11 in Nevada; grades K-9 in Colorado and grades K-8 in Florida and Wisconsin. 

We applaud the growth of the Charter School system which is a testament both to the existence of the internet and the failure of our school system to have met needs now serviced that include students who are (1) gifted and need a faster pace, (2) need a flexible schedule due to learning disabilities, health issues or extracurricular activities, (3) need individualized attention from their teacher or (4) want to combine the best of public school support 
with a home learning environment.  The national Connections Academy was founded in 2001 as "a commitment to the highest educational standards, with full accountability." 

This program relies on use of a home computer.  It provides textbooks and other materials to guide both student and in-home teacher.  Best of all worlds, it is free to enrolled families, relying on funding by local taxes which in Oregon are those paid to the small, mid-Willamette Valley Scio district. Enrollees are subject to a strict screening by the national Connections Academy organization (www.connectionsacademy.com).  The in-home teacher providing curriculum materials, schedule and learning plan must be certified by the Academy.  The Learning Management System is proprietary and web-based.

Parental endorsements provided

The Academy web site offers parental endorsements and contacts for those considering the program.  A family can be provided with a computer system if needed.  CITA (Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation) has accredited Connections Academy as its only virtual public school.  The academy was required to meet "established standards of
distance education including educational program offerings, student services and staff.

While considering this valuable resource, a parent or guardian should remember that the social interaction provided by school attendance is not here.  Nor are interscholastic athletics, music, debate and other traditional public school activities provided.  The growth of Charter School services should be indicative that our education system needs a hard look at how to improve its regular services. 

© 2007 Oregon Magazine