A major blow to school-choice has hit Chicago. The Chicago Virtual Charter School (CVCS) has been recommended as one of two charter schools to be closed at the end of the 2019-2020 school year due to a low SQRP score. CPS has been monitoring CVCS after a series of CBS investigative interviews, conducted by Lauren Victory, highlighted concerns from parents during the previous school year. Those concerns involved curriculum changes and alleged questionable financial expenditures.
While I can’t speak to all the data which is leading to the closing, I can speak from a parental view. The virtual model means everything to parents who wanted to give their children a solid foundation at home. Homeschooling parents saw a virtual environment as an opportunity to instill values of respect, honor, dignity, and faith along with education. Let’s make no mistake, it was also about having school choice. With traditional, non-selective enrollment schools plagued with gangs, bullying, violence, and antiquated text books, the virtual charter school was a great option for stay-at-home mothers.
The virtual model didn’t require parents to design their own curriculum, at least initially. The K-12 online curriculum was a great model and it worked really well. Books and computers where shipped to your house. It made it really convenient to setup and begin home instruction in the virtual world. While the cost was high for the virtual school, it was a free, useful, beneficial, comprehensive, and necessary platform for families.
SQRP scores are dictated by several evaluations but a major one is attendance. It turns out some parents were actually working full time jobs, leaving their children at home to fend for themselves when it came to online class lectures. Some instances were parents simply not logging attendance properly. For the most part parents were engaged on some level and the way in which attendance was taken the first 4-6 weeks of the 2018-2019 school year was archaic and insecure.
Changing the curriculum at the beginning of the year through a process which was not fully vetted added to the angst of parents. Students didn’t immediately have all classes available. There was no training option for parents in place who were not tech savvy to get the proper tools necessary to align with a fully online curriculum that included digital books (a major shift which put students in front of screens all day).
Needless to say, a BOARD that was not fully listening to its major stakeholders, parents and students, its support system, teachers and administrators, led to further discontentment of the school as a whole. Not allowing administrators to advance the program of the school led to distrust, anger, and teachers eventually walked away. At the time my daughter left, all but two staff members were new. Once CBS got involved we knew things were taking a turn for the worse.
The school will be missed. My daughter will have no middle school where she can say she was an alumna. Chicago will miss a gem that shared its space with the Merit School of Music. I have three goddaughters who completed 8th grade there and I have one goddaughter who graduated high from CVCS. More important, parents will miss an option which was vital for parents who like the homeschool virtual model and was a public school option of excellence in that space.
What can high schoolers do who will be displaced and those who are current 8th graders? Go to go.cps.edu (DEC 13 is the deadline) and if you want a great option for education, consider nobleschools.org. Noble is a great public option for students and families. That’s the move we made in deciding to leave CVCS after completing middle school. It was a move lead by God so we wouldn’t have to go through what parents are experiencing now and we have no regrets. I’m grateful for CVCS’s history and influence in the life of my loved ones. I’m sorry many won’t get to experience that type of option which once thrived in Chicago. CVCS was one of the most diverse learning platforms and environments that was a melting pot of all races, cultures, ethnicities, and religious background.