Don’t include us in charter school crossfire

Greenfield Commonwealth is a virtual public school

OCCASIONALLY, WE GET ASKED if Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School is a charter school. Sometimes, critics point fingers and include us in the charter school conversation. We are not a charter school. We are an online public school of choice, founded 10 years ago as part of the Greenfield Public Schools before we were granted permission to educate K-12 students across Massachusetts.

Education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition and, thankfully, we here in the Bay State not only recognize this but embrace it. The value and importance of providing students with multiple paths to success has become a key component of education reform in recent years. We all learn differently, which is why the Commonwealth of Massachusetts educates roughly 1 million students in grades K-12 each year through traditional public schools, charter schools, vocational-technical schools, and virtual public schools like Greenfield Commonwealth.

Greenfield provides high achieving students driven to excel with a rigorous and fast-paced curriculum they cannot get in other public schools. More importantly, it provides them with a portable education students can take with them as they train to be Olympic gymnasts or figure skaters, perform in Broadway plays, or race motorcycles across a desert (all of which our students have done in recent years) .

Of equal importance, Greenfield’s online model provides personalized support and individualized learning plans for students who struggle in traditional educational settings. It provides schooling to students who have medical conditions that prevent them from attending school. It also provides an alternate option for parents who wish to homeschool their children.

We are sometimes accused of siphoning money from public schools. This is also not true.

Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School is a public school that draws students from more than 100 different communities across Massachusetts. We are subject to the same rules, regulations, and requirements created by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that all Massachusetts public schools follow. Some would argue we are held to a higher standard and asked to do more for our students with less.

When critics label Greenfield Commonwealth as a charter school, it spreads misinformation about the nature of our school and our funding. Greenfield is a school of choice. Greenfield has never taken 100 percent of the per pupil cost from a sending district. Our funding is strictly regulated by the state and we are, under state law, provided with roughly 50 percent of the state average per pupil cost of educating the student.

Sound fiscal practice also requires Greenfield Commonwealth to set aside a reserve fund equal to one year of teacher salaries. Some critics may look at this as a “surplus.” It is not. We are required to keep these funds set aside because, unlike other public schools, Greenfield cannot go to town hall for a bailout. Greenfield has no override option to fund its budget.

Greenfield is a pioneer in online personalized learning. We empower our educators to tailor learning experiences to each student’s strengths, interests, and challenges. We redefine and change how students and teachers engage through innovative technology, while ensuring mastery of competencies embedded in a rigorous curriculum, and meeting state requirements under the guidance of state-certified teachers who are trained and have experience teaching in virtual school environments.

It is programs like ours, just like our counterparts in traditional school settings and vocational-technical schools, that have helped make our public education system here in Massachusetts the envy of much of the nation because we provide all students with multiple paths to success.

Meet the Author

Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School Board of Trustees

Board of trustees, Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School
This article was written jointly by the Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School board of trustees.