Course Choice Program Act

Course Choice Program Act

Summary

The Course Choice Program created by this Act would allow students in public schools and public charter schools to enroll in online, blended, and face-to-face courses not offered by the student’s school, and would allow a portion of that student’s funding to flow to the course provider. This Act creates an authorization process for providers and identifies provider and course eligibility criteria. This Act requires course providers and the State Department of Education to regularly report on the key measurements of student success and enrollment. This Act gives the State Department of Education authority to enter into an interstate course reciprocity agreement, allowing students within the state to take courses from providers domiciled in other states.

This model policy is written in a format to allow for flexibility among individual state’s needs. As written, there are options available to tailor funding and student eligibility based on the climate in each state.

Model Policy

Section 1. {Title}

(A) This Act shall be named the “Course Choice Program Act.”

Section 2. {Legislative Declaration}

(A) The legislature finds and declares that:

(1) It is in the public interest that all school children have access to the type and format of education that best meets the needs of the individual student, that each student has different needs that merit a variety of course choices on the individual student level, and that the state has the right, responsibility, duty, and obligation to accomplish the objective of a quality, individualized education for all children.

(2) Enrollment of children in course work offered by course providers is in compliance with the objectives of the states compulsory attendance law; course providers make a significant educational and economic contribution towards meeting the goal of a quality, individualized education for every school child; and the state has recognized and encouraged that contribution through online education and blended learning models of learning.

(3) High quality, effective course providers exist in the state.

(4) Course providers can offer a quality, individualized education to students and it is in the public interest to offer students the means of accessing the educational opportunities offered by course providers by providing students with the public funds allocated to them from local and state sources to enroll in such courses.

(5) Postsecondary education institutions can serve as quality course providers for students who seek advanced level course work or technical or vocational instruction.

(6) Online or virtual course providers can serve as quality course providers for students who desire additional access to high quality courses, especially but not limited to students enrolled in low-performing public schools, students who for reasons of geography may not be able to exercise their right to educational choice, and students who may desire an alternative schooling schedule or calendar.

(7) Just as there is a rich diversity of students, there is a rich diversity of course models ranging from online, to face to face, to blended learning. Students benefit from having access to a diverse catalog of options for how to best meet their unique academic needs.

(8) The state has a responsibility for maintaining a catalog of quality options for students.

Section 3. {Definitions}

(A) As used in this Act:

(1) “State Course Choice Program” shall mean the catalog maintained by the State Department of Education that provides a list of all courses authorized and available to students in the state.

(2) “Course Provider” shall mean an entity that offers individual courses in person or online, including but not limited to online or virtual education providers, public or private elementary and secondary education institutions, education service agencies, private or nonprofit providers, postsecondary education institutions, and vocational or technical course providers, and have been authorized to provide such courses by the State Department of Education.

(3) “Department” shall mean the State Department of Education.

(4) “Eligible participating student” shall mean any student who resides in [State] and meets one of the following criteria:

(a) was eligible to attend a public school in [State] in the preceding semester or is starting school in [State] for the first time; and

(b) is enrolled in a home study program approved by the Department.

(5) “LEA” means:

(a) a school district organized and existing pursuant to law;

(b) a board of cooperative services or intermediate school district;

(c) a publicly funded agency established by the state for the express purpose of authorizing charter schools;

(d) a public charter school authorized pursuant to state statutes; or

(e) other local education agency in the State that has administrative control of public education.

(6) “Eligible funded student” means any student who resides in [State] and meets one of the following criteria:

Option 1 “Universal Eligibility”:

(a) was eligible to attend a public school in [state] in the preceding semester or is starting school in [state] for the first time.

Option 2 “Income Based”:

(a) was eligible to attend a public school in [state] in the preceding semester or is starting school in [state] for the first time and is a member of a household whose total annual income does not exceed an amount equal to 2 times the income standard used to qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch under the national free or reduced-price lunch program established under 42 USC Section 1751 et seq. Once a student receives a scholarship under this program, the student will remain eligible regardless of household income until the student graduates high school or reaches 21 years or age; or

(b) is attending a public school that does not offer the course in which the student desires to enroll, as determined by the Department.

Option 3 “Low Performing Schools”:

(a) is attending a public school that received a letter grade of “C”, “D”, or “F”, or any variation thereof, according to the [State] accountability system; or

(b) is attending a public school that does not offer the course in which the student desires to enroll, as determined by the Department.

Section 4. {Provider Authorization Process}

(A) The Department shall:

(1) establish a submission and authorization process for providers occurring on a rolling basis;

(2) evaluate providers to be offered through the State Course Choice Program. The Department may negotiate changes in the proposal to offer a course, if the Department determines that changes are necessary in order to authorize the course;

(3) not later than 90 calendar days from initial submission date, authorize providers that:

(a) meet the criteria established under Section 5; and

(b) provide courses which offer the minimum instructional rigor and scope required under Section 5; and

(4) not later than 90 calendar days from initial submission date, provide a detailed written explanation of any providers denied.

(B) If the provider is denied authorization, the provider may resubmit under the standard provider authorization process under Section A at any time.

(C) The Department shall publish the process established under Section 4, including any deadlines and any guidelines applicable to the submission and authorization process for providers.

(D) The Department shall pay the reasonable costs of evaluating and authorizing providers. If funds available to the Department for that purpose are insufficient to pay the costs of evaluating and authorizing all providers submitted for evaluation and authorization, the Department shall give priority to paying the costs of evaluating and authorizing the following providers:

(1) providers offering courses that satisfy high school graduation requirements;

(2) providers offering courses that would likely benefit a student in obtaining admission to a postsecondary institution;

(3) providers offering courses, including dual credit courses, that allow a student to earn college credit or other advanced credit;

(4) providers offering courses in subject areas designated by the Department as commonly experiencing a shortage of teachers; and

(5) providers offering courses in subject areas and grades designated by the Department as high priority.

(E) If the Department determines that the costs of evaluating and authorizing a provider will not be paid by the Department due to a shortage of funds available for that purpose, the Department may charge applicants a fee up to but no greater than the amount of the costs in order to ensure that evaluation occurs. The Department shall establish and publish a fee schedule for purposes of this subsection.

Section 5. {Provider Criteria}

(A) A provider offering a course through the State Course Choice Program must:

(1) comply with all applicable antidiscrimination provisions;

(2) demonstrate in each subject area and grade level prior evidence of delivering quality outcomes for students as demonstrated by completion rates, student level growth, proficiency, and other quantifiable outcomes or rigorous evaluations;

(3) ensure instructional and curricular quality through a detailed curriculum and student performance accountability plan that aligns with, and measures student attainment of, student proficiency in achieving the state academic standards;

(4) provide assurances that the course provider shall, to the best of its ability, collaborate and coordinate with a local school system in which a eligible funded student or eligible participating student is enrolled full time; and

(5) commit to provide electronically the participating student’s school a detailed student record, including grades and performance information.

(B) A course offered by a provider must:

(1) be the equivalent in instructional rigor and scope to a course that is provided in a traditional classroom setting;

(2) be aligned to the state academic standards, industry standards, or Common Core State Standards; and

(3) possess an assessment component for determining student growth and proficiency.

(C) Additional criteria developed by the Department may be used to evaluate providers, including courses and/or providers meet International Association for K-12 Online Learning (INACOL), Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), AdvancED, or other third party quality standards.

Section 6. {Provider Monitoring and Reauthorization}

(A) The initial authorization of the course provider shall be for a period of three years.

(B) Providers must annually report:

(1) Student outcomes, growth measures, proficiency rates, completion rates for each subject area and grade level

(2) Student and parental satisfaction rates and comments.

(C) After the second year of the initial authorization period, the Department shall conduct a thorough review of the course provider’s activities and the academic performance of the students enrolled in courses offered by the course provider in accordance with the school and district accountability system.

(D) If the performance of the students enrolled in courses offered by the course provider pursuant to the school and district accountability system does not meet performance standards set by the Department, the course provider shall be placed on probation for one year and will be required to submit a plan for improvement.

(E) After the initial three-year authorization period, the Department may reauthorize the course provider for additional periods of not less than three years after thorough review of the course provider’s activities and the achievement of students enrolled in courses offered by the course provider.

(F) The Department may exclude a course provided by an authorized provider at any time if the department determines that:

(1) the course is no longer adequately aligned with the State academic standards;

(2) the course no longer provides a detailed and quality curriculum and accountability plan; or

(3) the course fails to deliver outcomes as measured by student outcomes and performance on state or nationally accepted assessments.

Section 7. {Interstate Course Reciprocity}[1]

(1) Not later than January 1, 2014, the Department shall create a reciprocal course and course provider authorization process for students who reside in [State] but seek to enroll in a course authorized in another state.

(2) The reciprocal course authorization process should take into account providers or courses that:

(a) are of equivalent instructional rigor and scope to a course that is provided in a traditional classroom setting; and

(b) are authorized in another state through that state’s provider or course authorization process if the criteria used are aligned to those established Section 5.

(3) The Department shall create a process for common course numbering of all courses listed in the State Course Choice Program and for determining whether courses are in compliance with Section 5. For courses offered by postsecondary education institutions that are authorized course providers, the Department shall consult with the Board of Regents.

Section 8. {Responsibilities of the State Department of Education}

(A) The Department shall:

(1) publish the criteria required by Section 5 for courses that may be offered through the State Course Choice Program;

(2) using the criteria required by Section 5, evaluate courses submitted by a provider school district or school to be offered through the catalog;

(3) create a list of courses authorized by the Department;

(4) publish on the State Course Choice Program’s public website in a prominent location the list of courses offered by authorized providers available through the State Course Choice Program and a detailed description of the courses;

(5) publish for the general public, in accordance with disclosure requirements adopted in rule by the Department, as part of its application as a provider, and in all contracts negotiated pursuant to this section:

(a) information about the curriculum of each course;

(b) course policies and procedures;

(c) certification status of all administrative and instructional personnel;

(d) hours and times of availability of instructional personnel;

(e) student completion and promotion rates;

(f) student, educator, and school performance accountability outcomes;

(g) technology and broadband requirements; and

(h) cost for participation;

(6) The information required in Paragraph (A)(5) of this Section 8 and underlying data shall be published online in an open format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched by commonly used web search applications;

(a) An open format is one that is platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without restrictions that would impede the re-use of that information.

(7) The Department may enter into an agreement with other states or organizations to create and operate one or more aspects of the catalog and course choice program; and

(8) Establish and publish a timeframe or specific dates by which students are able to withdraw from a course provided through the State Course Choice Program without the student or the provider incurring a penalty.

(B) To ensure that a full range of courses, including advanced placement courses, are offered to students in this state, the Department:

(1) shall create a list of those subjects and courses designated by the Department as essential knowledge and skills or designated as content requirements;

(2) shall enter into agreements with school districts, charter schools, private or nonprofit providers, and public or private institutions of higher education for the purpose of offering the courses through the State Course Choice Program; and

(3) may develop, authorize the development of, or enter into contracts with other providers for the licensing, development, or purchasing of additional courses that:

(a) are needed to complete high school graduation requirements;

(b) are not otherwise available through the State Course Choice Program; and

(c) are needed to help students achieve state academic standards in grades kindergarten through grade 12.

(C) The Department shall maintain on its official website in a prominent location an “informed choice” report. Each report under this section must:

(1) be updated within 30 calendar days of additional provider authorizations;

(2) describe each course offered through the State Course Choice Program and include information such as course requirements and the school year calendar for the course, including any options for continued participation outside of the standard school year calendar;

(3) student and parental comments and feedback reporting requirements as detailed under Section 6; and

(4) be published online in an open format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched by commonly used web search applications.

(a) An open format is one that is platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without restrictions that would impede the re-use of that information.

(D) The Department shall submit an annual report on the State Course Choice Program and the participation of entities to the Governor, the chairman and minority chairman of the Education Committee of the Senate and the chairman and minority chairman of the Education Committee of the House of Representatives. The report shall at a minimum include all of the following information:

(1) The number of students participating in courses authorized under this article;

(2) The number of authorized providers;

(3) The number of authorized courses;

(4) The number of courses available by subject and grade level;

(5) The number of students enrolled in courses by subject and grade level; and

(6) Student outcome data, including completion rates, student learning gains, student performance on state or nationally accepted assessments, by subject and grade level by provider.

(E) The report and underlying data shall bepublished online in an open format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched by commonly used web search applications.

(1) An open format is one that is platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without restrictions that would impede the re-use of that information.

Section 9. {Responsibilities of and Limitations on the Local School District}

(A) A school district or charter school shall:

(1) notify parents of the availability of course choice options in correspondence that is written in simple and accurate language that parents can understand;

(2) provide information by letter or email to the student’s home and by at least two other means, such as community flyers, newspaper postings, or other method;

(3) publish information and eligibility guidelines on the school and school district’s web sites; and

(4) submit eligibility policies to the State Course Choice Program.

(B) Each local school system shall establish policies and procedures whereby for each eligible funded student as identified in Section 3 the following shall apply:

(1) Credits earned through the course provider shall appear on each such student’s official transcript and count fully towards the requirements of any approved [state] diploma.

 (2) State-mandated assessments shall be administered to each such student attending a public school.

(C) Each local school system shall make available to all students the State Course Choice Program as provided by the Department during the annual course enrollment process for that local school system.

(D) No local school system shall actively discourage, intimidate, or threaten an eligible funded student or an eligible participating student during the course enrollment process or at any time for that local school system.

(E) The performance data of students who are enrolled in a course pursuant to this Part and in accordance with Subsection A of this Section shall be counted in the school performance score for the school in which the student is enrolled full time. The performance data shall be reported to and published by the Department for each course provider in an easy to understand format and on the Department’s website.

(F) The Department shall adopt rules necessary to implement this Part, including but not limited to the requirements of school governing authorities or local school systems whose students enroll in courses offered by authorized course providers.

(G) Nothing in this article shall be construed to prevent a school entity from establishing its own online course or program in accordance with this act.

Section 10. {Funding}[2]

Option 1 Funding Model:

(A) Per-course funding shall be determined as follows:

(1)The course provider shall receive a per-course amount for each eligible funded student of an amount equal to the market rate as determined by the course provider and reported to the Department up to one-sixth of ninety percent of the per pupil amount each year for the local school system in which the eligible funded student resides. Any remaining funds, except those specified in Paragraph (2) of this Subsection, for that student shall be divided evenly and returned to the state and to the local school system in which the student resides. Transfers of course payments shall be made by the Department on behalf of the responsible school district in which the student resides to the authorized course provider.

(2) For each student, an amount equal to ten percent of the per-pupil funding amount shall remain with the local school system in which the student is enrolled full time.

(3) The course provider shall receive payment only for the courses in which the student is enrolled. The remaining funds for each of these students up to the maximum amount for the school district in which the participating student resides or actual tuition and fees, as applicable, shall remain with the participating school in which the student is enrolled.

(4) The Department shall proportionally reduce the fee for any student who withdraws from a course prior to the end of the course.

(B)

(1) The course provider may charge tuition to any eligible participating student in an amount equal to the amount determined by the course provider and reported to the Department.

(2) The course provider shall accept the amount specified in Paragraph (1)(a) of this Section as total tuition and fees for the eligible participating student.

(C) Funding shall be based upon student success, as follows:

(1) Fifty percent of the amount of tuition to be paid or transferred to the course provider shall be paid or transferred upon student enrollment in a course and fifty percent shall be paid or transferred upon course completion according to the published course length.

(2) If a student does not complete a course according to the published course length in which the course provider has received the first payment pursuant to Paragraph (1) of this Subsection (C), the provider shall receive forty percent of the course amount as defined in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection (C) only if the student completes the course and receives credit for the course prior to leaving school or graduating from high school.

(3) The remaining ten percent of the per-pupil amount for the local school system in which the eligible funded student resides shall remain with the school in which the eligible funded student is enrolled full time.

Option 2 Funding Model:

(A) The amount of a fee charged for each course in which the eligible funded student enrolls through the State Course Choice Program shall be approved by the Department in order to provide flexibility for courses with higher costs, such as blended learning courses that may involve a physical facility or where Internet enabled devices and connectivity are included as part of the offering.

(B) Funding shall be based upon student success, as follows:

(1) Fifty percent of the amount of tuition to be paid or transferred to the course provider shall be paid or transferred upon student enrollment in a course and fifty percent shall be paid or transferred upon course completion according to the published course length.

(2) If a student does not complete a course according to the published course length in which the course provider has received the first payment pursuant to Paragraph (1) of this Subsection B, the provider shall receive forty percent of the course amount as defined in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection B only if the student completes the course and receives credit for the course prior to leaving school or graduating from high school.

(C) Except as provided by this Section, the State Course Choice Program may not charge a fee to students for courses provided through the catalog.

(1) A school district or charter school may charge a fee for enrollment in a course provided through the State Course Choice Program to a student who resides in this state and:

(a) is enrolled in a school district or charter school as a full-time student; and

(b) is enrolled in a course load greater than that normally taken by students in the equivalent grade level in other school districts or open-enrollment charter schools.

(2) A school district or charter school may charge a fee for enrollment in a course provided through the State Course Choice Program to a student who resides in this state and is not enrolled in a school district or charter school as a full-time student.

(3) A school district or charter school that is not the provider school district or school may charge a student enrolled in the district or school a nominal fee, not to exceed the amount specified by the Department, if the student enrolls in a course provided through the State Course Choice Program that exceeds the course load normally taken by students in the equivalent grade level

Section 11. {Severability clause.}

Section 12. {Repealer clause.} 

Section 13. {Effective date.}

Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors in December 2013.

 

Notes


[2] This model bill offers two models of funding. The first, based on Louisiana’s original funding formula (2012 Louisiana House Bill 976), is the most equitable funding stream with 90% of student funding divisible into 6 equal parts of 15% of FTE student funding per course and 10% FTE student funding remaining with the student’s home district.

The second funding formula is similar to the Texas model (2013 Texas House Bill 1926) which allows all funding streams (federal, state, and local) to flow to the district, which then must pay a per-course tuition to the course provider based on an approved funding structure.

A performance-pay component has been added, which reserves 10% of course funds for payment upon successful completion of a state end-of-course exam.

Comparable funding models can be found in ALEC’s model Statewide Online Education Act.

Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors January 9, 2014.

Keyword Tags: 2013 SNPS, Education Task Force

Task Forces