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Changing schools can be a difficult decision for every family. We want to make sure you have all of your questions answered before joining us. We have talked to many of our parents. Below are some frequently asked questions about our online school in PA with regards to academics, technology, socialization, and enrollment.
Type of Questions About Online School
PA Leadership Charter School (PALCS) is a state-approved public cyber charter school for Pennsylvania students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Since 2004, PALCS has provided individualized online instruction with teacher curriculum created to its families. We currently serve over 3100 students state-wide.
PALCS students receive access to standards-aligned courses, taught by certified and highly qualified teachers. Teachers post engaging lessons, teach live virtual lessons, and help daily as students progress through the work. Support staff are available for guidance, technical help, and other student services.
We provide all the tools you need for cyber education. You’ll receive, on loan, a laptop computer and access to educational websites. Depending on what courses you take, you’ll also receive digital textbooks from many publishers, physical books, workbooks and kits as needed.
PALCS families connect across the state by taking part in online lessons, attending field trips and joining clubs and activities. You will also have access to several special programs for PALCS students. These programs encourage gifted and special education students, nurture performing and fine arts talents, and inspire young leaders. When you join our community, you become a part of our PALCS family!
PALCS provides a full cyber school experience for any student living in Pennsylvania in grades K-12. This is regardless of race, religion, sex, ethnic background or any factor used for discrimination. Students under the age of 21 may attend to finish high school. Also, current school districts may not have expelled the student. We accept kindergarteners based on the start age of their local district. Otherwise, as a public school, PA Leadership openly accepts all K-12 students in Pennsylvania. View more information about eligibility on our Enrollment page.
As a public school, PALCS provides a free and proper education to any student in Pennsylvania who wishes to attend.
PALCS has about 3100 students, so there may be about 3100 reasons why families choose PALCS — each case is different! That said, we do meet families who have common goals and needs for their students.
Individualized academics, pacing and scheduling
Cyber school allows students to work at a speed that fits their own learning needs. Students have a window of 1-2 weeks to complete work. This allows them to work ahead or spend extra time on assignments. This setup helps:
- Gifted students move faster than in other school settings.
- Special Ed students work in the safety and support of their homes.
- Students take specialized courses rarely offered by local districts.
- Children of families that travel often.
- Athletes with complex schedules.
- Those focusing on the arts who need extra time to grow their talents.
PALCS is not just for students with unique schedules or needs. It is a great place for any student who has a supportive parent or guardian and would enjoy learning via the Internet.
Combining the best interactive curriculum with skilled teachers who are online every day, helps students engage with the material. It also allows them to connect with their Teachers more than in the traditional brick and mortar setting. Lastly, this setting allows some students to progress faster than in other schools.
Health, safety and the home environment
Cyber school lessens negative social impact by reducing the risk of bullying, drugs, alcohol, gangs, fights, and the fear associated with an unsafe climate. Therefore, our school is ideal for students who have trouble attending school for health and social reasons.
PALCS is also a smart choice for young parents. We offer a teen parent support group.
Cyber school gives all the advantages of homeschooling without the added stress and workload placed upon homeschooling parents. Qualified, experienced teachers bring school into the safety and comfort of the student’s home. Parents or guardians can check student progress and give basic aid.
More so, ending time-wasters such as busing, changing of classes, lunch periods, and discipline issues allows students to complete their schoolwork much quicker than in a brick-and-mortar school. This gives families extra time to connect with their community. Students can build friendships within faith-based communities, community sports teams, neighbors, and other home-based learning groups.
Take our compatibility quiz to help think about some ways cyber school may be a good fit for your family.
Several factors make PALCS a unique cyber school experience. Such as:
- Flexible scheduling, as teachers post lessons in advance and are available 24/7.
- PA certified teachers, many with life experience in their subjects, giving direct instruction.
- Families interacting daily with teachers, as they host live classrooms, give individual feedback, and send daily messages to students.
- Electronically recorded grades in a regularly updated gradebook accessible to students and parents at all times.
- Curriculum from a variety of publishers, carefully chosen to work best in the home setting. We partner with the finest online curriculum companies and many of our textbooks have online pieces.
- Teachers who design their own courses, drawing upon the best resources available, each lesson enhanced with the teacher’s personal style.
- A tiered, complete course of study for grades K-12. Many courses are more rigorous than normal courses and all with Extra-Curricular Activities.
- An emphasis on computer, typing and writing skills from an early age. Good communication skills are important for effective leadership.
- PALCS is an independently run cyber charter program. Some other PA Cyber Charter Schools are managed by national corporations or by local school district Intermediate Units.
Differences to look for among cyber schools tend to regard daily structure, curriculum, and teacher involvement — click the links to learn more about how PALCS works. You can find the complete list of both brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools in PA on the PA Department of Education website.
We are proud of the work we do and our student accomplishments. You may wish to hear directly from PALCS families on our Facebook page, or read our #1 cyber school reviews on niche.com. We encourage families to peruse our website or contact us for details or discuss your specific situation and why PALCS may be the right fit for your family.
Legally, PALCS is a public cyber charter school and is uniquely different from homeschool. While PALCS students are learning at home and aided by a parent, the term homeschool in Pennsylvania almost always refers to students learning under the PA Home Education Law, which is a separate law from the Cyber Charter School law. In Pennsylvania, a parent or supervisor who chooses homeschooling selects their own curriculum and is 100% responsible for the instruction of the homeschool student. PALCS is a public school and as such, follows the same standards and requirements as traditional brick-and-mortar public schools. PALCS selects the curriculum, and instruction is delivered by PA-certified teachers. Parents serve as a support role and may be as involved in the teaching process as they desire. If a parent cannot be involved, their role still must be to keep the student motivated and connected to the teachers for the student to be successful.
Please view our Parent/Student Handbook.
PALCS is open 180 days and runs a schedule like other public schools with holidays, winter break and spring break. Traditionally, our first day is in September the day after Labor Day, and the school year ends in June.
The first day of the 2020-2021 school year will be August 31, 2020. The last day will be June 11, 2021. View the complete School Calendar.
PALCS does not offer summer courses to the public.
Please complete this form to request your transcript from PALCS.
Title I is a federally-funded educational program. It is designed to improve the academic achievement of students at risk for failure in Reading and/or Math. Title I funds must be used to coordinate, and supplement services otherwise required for students in the Title I Program.
Students are selected based not on their income level, but entirely on their achievement level. The Local Education Agency (LEA) chooses the criteria used to qualify. To qualify, students must achieve at a below proficient level in two assessment criteria. For grades 3-5, this must include the PSSA. It may also include:
- report card grades
- anecdotal records
- teacher recommendation
- and other appropriate assessments.
Criteria for students in K-2 must include developmentally appropriate assessments. It may also include
- teacher recommendation
- parent recommendation
- anecdotal records
- and other non-paper/pencil assessment tasks.
For many special ed students, PALCS is the ideal school. For one thing, all our teachers have training to give personal programs of instruction for every child. This wholly prepares them for students with IEPs. PALCS has a special ed department with resource teachers that work direct with parents, students, and other teachers. Lastly, because IEPs are, indeed, individualized to each student, we make accommodations on a case-by-case basis.
Visit the Special Education section of our website for more information.
On the 2017-2018 SAT, students scored 1166 overall, higher than the state average of 1073. On the 2017-2018 ACT, PALCS students obtained an average composite score of 26.1, higher than the state average of 23.7. 93 students took 162 AP exams with an average score of 3.9. 87% of PALCS AP exam takers obtained a score of 3 or higher.
PALCS attempts to accommodate any reasonable request from parents. For example, parents who do not believe in teaching music may opt their child out of any music courses. However, you cannot replace core courses, such as Kindergarten reading, for example. In such cases, it is the parents’ responsibility to supplement the curriculum with their own religious beliefs.
As a public school, PALCS may not teach sectarian religious instruction. Any public school may teach courses such as Comparative Religions and The History of (name of religion). In addition, parents may request an opportunity for religious instruction for their children that is facilitated by the school but not paid for by the school. Parents are also free to give any instruction in their home that they believe adds to the curriculum taught by the school. Parents may form groups separate from the school to aid this instruction. The role of the PALCS teacher is to neither encourage nor discourage any expression of religious thought protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Pennsylvania does not allow students to enroll in two full-time schools at the same time. This includes public, private, home, or charter schools. Students who enroll in PALCS are full-time students of PALCS and meet all PA state standards through our courses.
There are, however, certain exceptions: some local school districts will allow a student to take a course within the local district. This needs the active participation of the local district, school, and teacher and will often involve a fee. Parents must arrange this partnership.
11th and 12th graders who meet a series of enrollment and academic requirements may be eligible for participation in a vo-tech program. Information is available upon request.
PALCS offers virtually any course that a student might want to take in a public high school. This includes multiple electives, honors and AP courses. Please visit our curriculum page for full details.
PALCS’ teachers say that they get to know their students better in this online learning environment than they did in their previous brick and mortar experience. Teachers can communicate through email, school mail, instant messaging, voice, text, video, phone, USPS mail and live (periodically). Teachers are accessible online for multiple hours during the day. Because of the online environment, PALCS’ teachers have significantly more time to collaborate and synchronize their teaching to meet the needs of the student(s).
Yes. Our academic program is a paced program providing an opportunity for a student to work ahead, participate in enrichment activities or work at a pace that meets his / her current academic standing or needs. PALCS has a full Special Education Department with online Special Education teachers, related services that come to the home and an online speech therapist and an online reading specialist. Families have the flexibility in how they choose to set up their daily schedule. Students complete daily lessons at a pace that meets their needs. While one student may spend 30 minutes on an assignment, another student may need to spend an hour or more. Teachers work with each student to ensure they are appropriately progressing within the assigned curriculum. Teachers and support staff offer personalized assistance to students in the form of remediation or enrichment activities for students seeking greater challenges.
PALCS provides a Windows laptop computer with all software and internal storage needed to hold all school programs and files. The laptop has a webcam built in. Families also receive a headset with microphone and a three-in-one printer/copier/scanner. Desktop computers may be provided to families with special circumstances upon request.
Some lessons have students use added software for tasks such as word processing, audio recording, and advanced math notation. PALCS computers use open-source software that you can use on home computers as well as the school computer.
The school warranties equipment for normal wear and tear. Therefore, Parents are responsible for paper and print cartridges and damage to the computer by software not provided by the school.
PALCS computers are not available for purchase. Students who withdraw or graduate from PALCS must return all equipment to the school, including computer system and textbooks. PALCS will provide a prepaid return label, enabling the parent to return this equipment with no cost to the parent.
Families are welcome to use their own computers to access our website and do school work, but we do not support personal computers for any technical difficulties.
“PALCSchool” is the PALCS school system. PALCSchool is a collection of learning management platforms, including Canvas, as well as other educational websites.
- Multiple lesson types that take full advantage of the Internet, with embedded images, sound, and video, as well as links to external educational websites
- Multimedia classrooms with real-time features:
- voice and text chat
- interactive whiteboard
- synchronized web browsing
- Flexible testing that challenges even the most gifted student
- Automatically graded tests that produce instant results and explanations of correct answers; also, the ability for teachers to grade and respond to open questions
- Instantly updated grades to a student online progress report, available to both parents and students
- Access to the most complete, up-to-date curriculum through digital versions of many of our textbooks
- The ability to communicate with each teacher and student in several modes:
- Guided discussion
- Free discussion
- PALCSmail (internal and protected from spam)
- Multimedia Classrooms
Sometimes. We require students to log on every school day, Monday through Friday with exceptions for holidays. Generally, we do not need students to log on at any specific hour of the day. Nor do we need them to be online for any minimum length of time, if they log on at some point during the school day. The system records attendance for the day once a student logs on. Then he or she should check announcements, PALCSmail, and lessons for all classes. Once the student completes lessons, the student can choose to end school for the day or choose to work ahead. This is particularly convenient for students who have part-time jobs or take part in scheduled events or activities such as sports or music classes.
Additionally, some courses (e.g., journalism or a foreign language) and grades (K-5) require online virtual lessons at set times. Students needing extra help must also engage in lessons at set times. Upon enrollment, families work with teachers to select their virtual lesson schedule. This is generally 3 – 4 one-hour lessons per week. An example schedule could be Monday noon – 1, Tuesday from 10 – 11, and Thursday from 2 – 4. These are required online lessons, but the rest of the week’s schedule is completely flexible.
While not a substitute for scheduled school days, students may do schoolwork on weekends or holidays if they fall behind or will be going on a trip. Just like in brick and mortar schools, parents must submit excuses for missed student days.
We run our school on a password-protected website. It’s accessible from any computer with Internet access, anywhere in the world. You need no special software. In other words, students simply log on with their own username and password to begin working. More info about a normal school day is available on our school demo page.
PALCS does not believe it is healthy for students to spend multiple hours staring at a screen – whether it be a computer game, television or computer learning. PALCS provides several hundreds of dollars of texts to its students each year. Many of these text books have an identical online component that provides assessments and Internet resources for further exploration. Workbooks, manipulatives and offline projects are used to enrich the online experience.
Students complete all schoolwork from home, so you rarely need to visit the office. However, there are two cases that need your presence in a locale other than your home:
When a student applies to PALCS, students and parents/guardians must attend an orientation. These take place in our West Chester and Pittsburgh offices. Our Orientation Team periodically travels throughout the state as well.
We must give state-mandated PSSA and Keystone testing each year for selected grades. PALCS will set up multiple sites throughout the state for the convenience of families so they should not have to travel further than one hour to reach the testing site.
Possibly. PALCS cannot officially request student records (transcripts, medical records) from your former school until after you enroll your student. As we request these records for the enrollment process, you should contact the local district and request these documents before PALCS enrollment.
Within 15 days of PALCS enrollment, PALCS will send an official form to the student’s local district. This lets them know the student enrolled. It also tells them to send the student’s records to PALCS. Local districts sometimes need families to sign other withdrawal papers. So it is best to check with the local district before you enroll your student in PALCS to see if they will need follow-up.
During the school year, do not withdraw your student from your local district until your orientation with PALCS.
All students will receive added online school training in the onboarding module for three days after orientation. After students complete this, we will activate academic courses. Students who enroll during the summer will wait for our first day of school. Traditionally the day after Labor Day is the first day.
Students may go home with computers upon leaving the orientation. We may also send textbooks home with the student or ship them separately. Teachers will accommodate lessons for students waiting for materials.
Once we receive your registration packet and other papers, we will schedule you for the soonest orientation slot available. Orientations are available weekly, though we fill slots on a first-come-first-serve basis. During busy times of the year (our busiest in August and September), you may need to wait longer for an open slot.
You may expect to wait about a week before your orientation. The sooner you send your registration packet and other papers, the sooner we can schedule your orientation. Please visit our enrollment page to see the enrollment calendar and complete enrollment details.