I have dedicated my career to public education, and today I am thrilled to be part of a form of public education that's transforming lives: Indiana Connections Academy-Virtual Pilot School.
Indiana has started to answer the call from thousands of parents and students in the state who are looking for another public school option. Our school's enrollment is at capacity, and we have maintained an extensive waiting list since August.
Students come to us for a variety of reasons -- we provide full-time educational services to students with autism, cystic fibrosis, cancer and chronic pain disease. We also serve an Olympics-bound diver and students whose brick-and-mortar school was simply not a good fit.
Virtual schooling is a fast-growing education phenomenon in this country. Today, there are as many as 250 virtual charter schools serving close to 200,000 students in 27 states with significant virtual learning opportunities now offered in 49 of 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
INCA-VPS is part of the larger Connections Academy family of schools serving more than 30,000 students across the country. Academically, in the states where they operates, Connections Academy schools are the leaders in academic results based on the percentage of schools making adequate yearly progress, state report card ratings and the overall percentage of students scoring proficient or above on state tests.
A quality virtual charter school is more than delivering online courses to students. It is a complete public school, with a highly qualified, licensed teaching staff; a comprehensive curriculum (much of it offline and in print) aligned to state standards; student clubs, activities, and field trips; services for students with special learning needs; and complete accountability for student attendance and achievement, including performance on state tests. Indeed, we have to meet -- and in some cases exceed -- the same accountability requirements as traditional public schools.
Indiana has joined the states across the country in providing its students with quality options in public education. It's now up to our state leaders to ensure these schools not only become a permanent part of the public education system in our state, but also receive the level of support they need to help their students achieve.
Melissa Brown is the principal of INCA-VPS. She has more than 20 years of experience in public education and a master's degree in educational technology. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.