"This seemed like the best option, so we decided to go ahead and do it," Erinn Watson said. But as online K-12 schools grow in popularity, questions abound about accountability, high dropout rates and the possibility that they will siphon public funds away from brick-and-mortar schools. "(Online schools) are a big trend in education, but nobody really knows what to make of them yet," said M.D. Roblyer, an education professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has studied Web-based schools. "The opportunity is there. The experience can be as good or better than face-to-face, but the teachers have to be qualified and the students have to be ready to learn online." The majority of cyberschools, which obtain charter status through local school districts, are publicly funded but privately run, in some cases for profit. About 14,000 students in the Bay Area enrolled in virtual public programs during the 2011-12 school year, according to the state Department of Education, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. Many families are drawn to the individualized education available through Web learning, said Mina Arnold, program coordinator for California Virtual Academies, the state's largest network of online schools. . . ."
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