On 20 February 2013, the Oregonian ran what the ORCAPA Board considers to be a targeted, misleading, and unfair article recounting the experience of an ORCA student with a severe disability. We don't excuse the shortfall in services provided by the school district. However, we also weren't willing to let that headline and story stand without some sort of response.
The Board published a press release on 26 February detailing some of our issues with the article. Please read it yourself and feel free to give us your feedback. Others certainly did! Several newspapers wrote to tell us they were not going to publish our response because they had no interest in criticizing another paper. One even said they wouldn't include it because Connections Academy doesn't advertize in their publication. The online publication WatchdogWire did add an article. And on 28 February, Ms. Hammond, the original article's author, sent an email to the ORCAPA Board.
How would you respond to someone's suggestion that charter school enrollment is not explicitly a family choice? Or refusing to acknowledge that the title itself was written deliberatly to attempt to injure the school's reputation? This case is one of many special education struggles experienced by schools everywhere, traditional or otherwise, yet ORCA was singled out without any mention of the much larger state-wide issues. Continuing to refer to ORCA's low high school graduation rate without any context (very high percentage of ORCA's students who arrive credit deficient, the flexible enrollment design of the education program, most new schools tend to start with low graduation rates, etc) will continue to be a "talking point" for those opposed to online education. Data analysis is ongoing to help the school and parents better understand the true positive impact that ORCA's programs can have students of any credit situation, and the graduation rate for those who arrive as "on track" freshmen and remain enrolled for all four years is amazingly good (more to come on that later).
Here is the ORCAPA Board's reply to Ms. Hammond. We continue to welcome your comments and feedback. This blog post will continue to be updated.