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Of the 25 “virtual charter schools” in Wisconsin, four are based in the Milwaukee area. The Wisconsin Virtual Learning (WVL) school, part of the Northern Ozaukee School District, and the iQ Academy of Wisconsin, which is connected to the Waukesha School District and will change its name this summer to eAchieve Academy, are two of […]

Of the 25 “virtual charter schools” in Wisconsin, four are based in the Milwaukee area. The Wisconsin Virtual Learning (WVL) school, part of the Northern Ozaukee School District, and the iQ Academy of Wisconsin, which is connected to the Waukesha School District and will change its name this summer to eAchieve Academy, are two of the state’s largest and longest-running virtual schools.

The other two, the KM Global Charter School, run by the Kettle Moraine School District, and the Milwaukee Commmunity Cyber High School only started accepting students recently, and little data is available for them.

 
Rick Nettesheim

WVL and the iQ Academy enrolled about 700 and 800 students in the 2010-’11 school year, respectively. Students connect to teachers through computers and rarely, if ever, attend events in physical classrooms. Potential students can enroll at either school through the state’s open enrollment system.

iQ Academy Principal Rick Nettesheim says his students include elite athletes, musicians and dancers, young actors and models, even equestrians, motocross racers, missionaries, children whose families travel often, and others who require a more independent schedule.

Some have disabilities, major health conditions or were bullied in their previous school. “We have many students who are sick of the constant social haranguing and pressure to get caught up in the social aspects of school,” he says.

Melissa Horn, executive director at WVL, says many of its students were home-schooled before joining or “came from unsuccessful school experiences,” though some, as at iQ Academy, have other obligations.

In recent years, iQ Academy’s WKCE scores have kept pace with those of other schools in the Waukesha School District, even exceeding them at times. In 2010, about 87 percent of virtual 10th graders achieved proficiency or advanced levels on the reading test, compared to a district average of 76 percent. Both scores were about the same, 73 percent, on the math test.

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But WVL’s scores have tended to lag behind district averages, though its students have made up about half of the small district’s student population in recent years. For example, WVL’s scores were 68 percent in reading and about 54 percent in math, compared to district averages of 72 and about 65.

Northern Ozaukee was listed as an under-performer in our ranking of K-12 districts, and the data used in that analysis included scores and demographic information from both WVL and the iQ Academy. Joseph Gassert, interim superintendent at Northern Ozaukee, objects to including his district’s virtual students.

“We don’t think it’s a fair comparison,” he says. “These are students who are coming from unsuccessful situations for the most part. They’re probably some of the least successful students when we get them.”

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