Drafting Online Laws at the OK Corral
Politicians in Oklahoma are leaning towards the Massachusetts mess up earlier this year, when it comes to drafting proposals for online virtual schools. The mainstay to this language seems to be that parents and student needs are left out of the mix. We are looking at the same issue here of physical location and committees being the rule of the game, rather than educational necessities and the ability to seek out the best high quality education for a kid.
According to a draft document with this heading: “210:16-34 Title 210 State Department of Education Chapter 16 – Curriculum and Instruction (New) Subchapter 34 – Online Course Procedures,” politicians in Oklahoma are lining up future online education and virtual charters rules to keep all the control in the hands of districts, rather than parents. They are also missing an opportunity to strengthen their charters law to enable virtual charters, like some of the successful statewide programs that run with great benefit to students elsewhere in the United States.
Here are some examples of language from the document. On eligibility:
Districts shall offer supplementary online courses in Grades K-12 to students who are enrolled full-time in the district of residence. Students enrolled in online courses through the local public school district must meet the enrollment and eligibility criteria set by the district, Oklahoma State Board of Education Rules, and Oklahoma State Statutes. Student eligibility shall be determined by either reviewing a district’s previous year student history or for those students who have transferred from another district, the student’s history from the previous district using the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s student information system, the WAVE.
Other stuff, like the administration of an ILP that does not give student or parent much choice, it appears:
The admissions process for students taking one or more online courses through an accredited public school shall be the same as for students enrolled in traditional coursework with the additional requirement of an Individual Learning Plan (lLP) which shall be developed and signed within twelve months preceding enrol1ment by a local Online Instruction ILP Team that shall include, but may not be limited to, the student, parent or guardian, and representatives of the local school faculty which shall include a counselor, a classroom teacher, and a school site administrators.’ The ILP Team shall determine if placement in a specific online course is the most educationally appropriate placement and if the student has the capacity for success in an online course environment. Placement in an online course shall be made according to the student’s educational needs, interests and/or abilities and with unanimous approval from all members of the ILP Team. Determination of “educationally appropriate” shall include consideration of a student’s literacy and numeracy skills, technology skills, access to appropriate technology at school and at home, previous course or test performance, and unique educational and social needs. The admissions and enrollment process must include written authorization by the student’s parent or guardian to release student assessment results to the online course provider. The parent or guardian shall sign the Oklahoma State Department of Education Student Assessment Results Release Form to complete the admission and enrollment process. The local school district shall assume all liability, and be subject to both Oklahoma State Department of Education sanction and civil action if they deviate from these established administrative rules.
The ILP is a disastrously bad idea. These district contraptions won’t let any kids out of their sights (more specifically, out of their budgets). This is not about protecting students, it’s about protecting district budgets. There’s more.
Each eligible student who requests enrollment in an online course must participate in an online instruction conference with the ILP team. When appropriate, a special education teacher shall be included on the team. The purpose of the ILP team shall be to develop an ILP for the student requesting enrollment in an online course(s). If the ILP team determines that placement in an online course is educationally appropriate, the ILP shall reflect that determination and establish the criteria for completion.
In other language, it says that providers must contract with each individual district and the provider gets 75% funding when student successfully completes course; districts keep 25% for “administrative costs.” One could argue for 5-10% admin but not 25%. Here are a couple paragraphs from that language:
Each online course provider seeking approval to contract with school districts must complete the Oklahoma State Department of Education School District Virtual Instruction Program Application for Provider Approval available on the OSDE Web site at <www.sde.state.ok.us>. The initial application cycle will be open for 30 days. To be approved, the application and all documentation must be received by the State Textbook Committee by <insert DATE. > Approval requires the applicant to provide all the information requested, a determination that the provider meets the requirements set forth in the application, and demonstration of prior successful experience according to the requirements of the application. The State Textbook Committee will review all applications and make recommendations to the State Board of Education regarding certification of online providers. The State Board of Education shall have final approval or disapproval of applicants. The State Board of Education will provide the applicant with a written decision regarding the approval or denial of the application no later than 90 calendar days after the application deadline. I f the application is denied, the applicant will receive written notification identifying the specific areas of deficiency. The applicant shall have 45 calendar days after receipt of the notice of denial to resolve any outstanding issues, and resubmit the application for reconsideration. The applicant will receive a final written notice of approval or denial.
The school district and the online course provider will determine in their contract how much of the funding per student the provider will receive; the amount shall not exceed 75 percent of the OSAFF funding for a full-time enrollment. Partial program or individual course enrollments shall be funded ona pro rata basis. The amount of the funding the school district retains in their general fund balance and the amount paid to the provider is negotiated in the contract between the school district and the provider. All funds received for online instruction shall be deposited in the school district’s general fund.
While it is unclear how this legislative language, if made into law, would impact full-time programs and open enrollment in the state, it does seems to be an attempt to give districts some tools help “keep” their students (and funding).
On to this question of why there is no effort to enable statewide virtual charters. Virtual charters could offer full time AND supplemental courses through part-time enrollment. If the state uses a fractional funding formula for part-time (eg. FL), it has opportunity to create a framework for robust online learning (full and part time), with access and choice for students, and better transparency and accountability – with no double funding and overall savings to the taxpayer.
I ran into this same issue this school year when I was trying to enroll my child in OKVA. My local superintendant sat on my child's transfer paperwork for over three months. And then wanted a face to face with me. For over 2 hours she argued with me about my decision to go to OKVA. I had been home schooling my child for the last 2 years and could not for the life of me understand why she was so indignant about not signing the transfer order. My child has done better in the first nine weeks of school at OKVA than I could ever imagine. If our state government makes changes that take away the parents right to choose, our kids will suffer. Oklahoma cares more about paying the state employees and keeping big business happy than giving our kids the best education that they deserve. It sickens me. Politicians have forgotten, and I think some voters have also, that WE THE PEOPLE are the reason that they have then jobs that they do. And I for one, will use my voice when it come to this issue, to make sure that those setting so high and mighty at the state capitol that support any measure to take away my right and my child's right to OKVA, or any online private school, no longer has that nice cushy job. And if I can not personally remove them from office, my voice and face will not be one that they will ever forget. Thank you for passing on this information.
Tom Vander Ark
The Digital Learning Council will release policy recommendations 12/1. Access to options like OKVA is at the top of the list--and we're trying to capture the subtle barriers like the administrative approval that you were required to seek. Thanks for your comment
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