Date of Award

Spring 5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Kelli R. Paquette

Second Advisor

DeAnna M. Laverick

Third Advisor

Annah L. Hill

Abstract

This qualitative case study examined the perceptions of former students who are economically disadvantaged from a poor, rural district in central Pennsylvania who left their traditional school to enroll in one of the three biggest cyber-charter schools in the state. Through extensive interviews with the students and their learning coaches, the study attempted to see the experience through the eyes of those who lived it. Particular emphasis was placed on supports students and their learning coaches received from their schools and teachers and in their homes. Also, the researcher attempted to understand the perceptions of students and their learning coaches about the advantages and disadvantages of enrolling in a for-profit cyber-charter school as opposed to remaining in their traditional schools.

The results of this study, based on the experiences of five students and their learning coaches, imply that support from home is critical for student success in cyber-charter schools. Support from family members or loved ones was found to be more effective than support from social agents or acquaintances, and support from home was found to be more important than support from school. The study also implies that not all students are suited to work in the online environment. Some students in the study reported a sense of isolation as they worked in their cyber-charter schools. Some students in the study also had difficulty adapting to this new way of learning. Finally, the study determined that students who are not capable of functioning in a public school environment may feel more comfortable and be better served in a cyber-charter program. The study provides recommendations for improving the cyber-charter school experience. The improvements suggested included opening local satellite offices around the state staffed by a teacher to provide more face-to-face interaction with students, offering social opportunities in more local venues so students can connect in a sustainable way, and finally, developing a more rigorous screening process that would give all potential students and their learning coaches a realistic view of the expectations required in the cyber environment.

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