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JLARC Study of Alternative Learning Experience Programs

JLARC Study of Alternative Learning Experience Programs

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JLARC Study of Alternative Learning Experience Programs

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  1. JLARC Study ofAlternative Learning Experience Programs Preliminary Report September 14, 2005 Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee Robert Krell, JLARC Staff

  2. Introduction • K-12 programs primarily distinguished by off-campus instruction • 272 programs statewide – 19,400 FTE students • Different program sub-types • Online/digital programs – focus of Interim Report • Parent/Partner programs – focus of this Report • Study mandate from 2004 Supp. Budget • Major focus: adequacy of program rules • Regulatory landscape has changed • New legislation . . . and new program rules • Joint effort with State Auditor’s Office ALE Programs Preliminary Report

  3. Summary of Main Points • Old rules were inadequate – new rules are a significant improvement • Still some areas of concern • Lack of centralized oversight has been a problem – additional changes are warranted • Religion-based instructional materials likely being used in some programs • Inconsistent with state constitutional provisions • Existing policy addresses, but not being publicized • Unclear if full-funding warranted – but more information is needed ALE Programs Preliminary Report

  4. ALE Programs – An Overview • Creation of administrative rule – not statute • Fiscal rules – part of broader series of rules on how to apportion Basic Ed funding • Establish conditions that districts must meet to receive funding for students not present in classroom – thus, off-campus instruction • Intended to provide districts flexibility to serve diverse student population • 272 programs – 19,400 FTE students • Just under $80 million in Basic Ed funding ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 2-3

  5. Other 45% Parent/Partner 46% Digital/ Online 9% Alternative Learning Experience Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Students by Program Type 19,407 Total FTE Students ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report p. 3

  6. What Are Parent/Partner Programs? • Provide varying types & levels of services to those who wish to provide some of their children’s education in the home • Most instruction takes place in the home • Parents provide major portion of instruction • School personnel often responsible for developing learning plan, monitoring progress and assessing performance • But retain ultimate responsibility for entire instruction program – this is what distinguishes these programs from home-schooling • 101 programs – 9,016 FTE students • Just under $37 million in Basic Ed funding ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report p. 4

  7. Legend Student FTEs Location and Size of Parent/Partner Programs in Washington ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report p. 9

  8. Parent/Partner Programs – cont. • Questions/concerns first raised by representatives of home-school organizations – initially directed to SAO • Related to program quality, funding & spending • Washington unusual in providing this type of programming - only two states offer programs that are at all similar • No standard program type – lots of variation ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 5-6, 11-12

  9. Six Issue Areas • General Regulatory Framework • Quality Assurance Requirements • Program Oversight and Accountability • Use of Religious Materials/Curriculum • Program Funding and Spending • Issues of Concern to Home-Schooling Interests ALE Programs Preliminary Report

  10. General Regulatory Framework • Programs not statutory – limits direct legislative control & oversight • OSPI doesn’t view their proper role as extending to active oversight • Establishing programs in statute would allow for more legislative input • Recommendation 1 • Legislature should consider establishing ALE programs in statute ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report p. 17

  11. Quality Assurance Requirements • Old rules were lacking - new rules are a significant improvement • Biggest change: much more involvement on the part of certificated staff • Student progress now to be “supervised, monitored, assessed and evaluated” by certificated staff • Also will have “primary responsibility and accountability” for a student’s learning plan • Other changes relate to curriculum and strengthening student assessment requirements ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 19-22

  12. Quality Assurance - Two Concerns • Student/teacher contact requirements • Weekly contact still required, but minimum time requirements eliminated • Recommendation 2 • The Legislature should consider whether minimum contact time requirements should be re-imposed • Curriculum not required to address state or district learning goals • Recommendation 3 • The Legislature should consider whether curriculum provided through ALE programs should be required to address state/district learning goals ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 19-22

  13. Program Oversight & Accountability • Little centralized control or oversight • New rules will help substantially – districts will have to: • Adopt and annually review policies for each program • Designate a specific official responsible for approving and monitoring programs, and reporting annually to local board • Evaluate programs • By themselves, new rules may not be enough • SAO found significant level of non-compliance ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 23-25

  14. Oversight & Accountability – cont. • Additional requirements warranted • Recommendation 4: • OSPI should amend its rules to require districts that claim funding to submit an annual assurance that they are in compliance with all ALE rules • To be based on self-assessment instrument developed by OSPI • Recommendation 5: • OSPI should develop program implementation guidelines • Should include templates for recording and reporting key program information ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 26-27

  15. Religious Curriculum & Materials • Some programs allow religion-based instructional materials to support learning plan activities • Inconsistent with state constitutional provisions • 1998 OSPI memorandum addressed issue • Districts must assume responsibility for instructional content of off-campus learning activities in order to claim funding • Materials used don’t have to be designed for public classroom use, but must not be of a nature that would preclude their use in a public school classroom ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 29-32

  16. Religious Materials – cont. • Policy outlined in memorandum satisfactorily addresses issue – but has not been well-publicized • Many programs are unaware of it • Recommendation 6 • OSPI should incorporate its existing policy on instructional materials into its new program implementation guidelines – and remind districts of their obligations ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 31-32

  17. Program Funding and Spending • Funding – what should the appropriate funding level be? • No solid rationale for funding at full Basic Education level • Based on old contact time requirements • Other states fund at different levels • Alaska: 80 percent • California: 70 to 100 percent • Insufficient data on what programs cost • Recommendation 7 • OSPI should require districts to report ALE program spending information for 2 years ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 33-37

  18. Program Funding & Spending – cont. • Spending Issues • Minimum spending requirement eliminated • SAO found program funds had been spent on such items as: • Private horse riding lessons • Gym memberships • Ski lift tickets, rentals, lessons • Private music lessons (Not necessarily inappropriate, but presumably not widely available to all district students) • Use of “parent accounts” for expenses (average of $475 per student per year, up to $1600) ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 34-36

  19. Program Funding & Spending – cont. • At least one other state (Alaska) has imposed spending restrictions • Recommendation 8 • Legislature should consider whether spending requirements or restrictions should be placed on ALE programs, including: • Overall minimum program spending requirements • Maximum limits on parent accounts • Restrictions on types of expenditures • Limits on amount of funds that can be used on non-core academic areas ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 36-37

  20. Issues of Concern to Home-Schooling Organizations • Two main issues • Permitting part-time enrollment • Requiring programs to provide accurate information on legal status of enrolled students • Both issues appear to have been satisfactorily addressed in OSPI’s rule revisions ALE Programs Preliminary Report Report pp. 39-41

  21. JLAR Staff Contact: Robert Krell, JLARC Staff krell.robert@leg.wa.gov 360-786-5182 ALE Programs Preliminary Report