With Governor Christie having recently approved charters for two online schools in NJ, the path may now be open for a creative opportunity to solve – or at least ameliorate – the tuition crisis. At the outset, it’s understood that this solution is not necessarily for all individuals or for all schools; each participant and each institution must evaluate whether or not the following proposal is suitable and advantageous.
A charter school is, by definition, a public school. This means that the local education agency (LEA) along with the state pays for the full cost – up to the state’s allocation amount – of education for each student enrolled in the charter school. In the case of a virtual charter school, this includes the cost of the education program, books, lab materials, and computer expenses, as well. Unlike a “brick and mortar” charter school, education in an online school is not deemed to take place in a physical site; it takes place in cyberspace. This means that the location of the actual computer onto which the student logs-on is irrelevant to the government. The computer can be in the student’s den; it can be in his/her public library; or it can be in his/her yeshiva.
With this in mind, the OU’s Department of Day School & Educational Services has proposed the following scenario for consideration:
Students enrolled in yeshiva X learn their limudei kodesh in the traditional set-up at the yeshiva.
- The students learn their general studies at the yeshiva – but through the online program (we recommend the K12 program, considered THE leader in excellent online education).
- Classes can be set up with 15, 20, 25, 50 (or whatever number one chooses) terminals, with an education coach supervising students so that they are on task.
- Students can work individually, cooperatively, or as one whole group – depending upon the class, the school, etc.
- There can be classroom discussions – or no classroom discussions, as the school community sees fit.
- It should be noted that this technology enables an educational approach which is considered the height of differentiated instruction, a concept that is universally recognized as a critical component of pedagogy.
For further details regarding program quality, those interested should investigate K12 – or any other company – for complete evaluation. K12 is accredited by prestigious accrediting agencies (the equivalent of Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges), and already has an array of praiseworthy college acceptances. They have a highly sophisticated curricular design, sound, graphics, etc. Every aspect of the program is researched based (e.g., if the research shows that the average attention span of a 3rd grader is 8 minutes, each segment of the unit lesson is approximately 7 – 8 minutes long). Academic guidance, enrichment, remediation, baseline testing and progress testing, college guidance, etc. are all provided.
This model implies that the cost to parents would be limited to: the limudei kodesh program, the building and associated costs, transportation, supplies and the education coaches. The educational coaching positions could be filled by parents, retired teachers, or create a new opportunity for extending additional work hours to the rebbeim/morot at a prorated pay scale. The effect on tuition reduction is substantial, a true win/win situation.
Given this general outline, there are clearly advantages, disadvantages, and many additional details to be explored and fleshed out. We are hopeful that Governor Christie’s approval for online charter schools will create the basis for productive exploration, beneficial discussion and further consideration.
To find out more, please contact Rabbi Saul Zucker, Director of OU’s Department of Day School & Educational Services. Rabbi Zucker can be reached at 212-613-8202 or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.