RD113 - 2012 Status Report Regarding Multidivision Online Learning

Executive Summary:
In 2010, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation, introduced by Delegate Richard P. Bell on behalf of Governor Robert F. McDonnell, authorizing the establishment of virtual school programs (see Appendix A). The legislation required the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and the Virginia Board of Education to approve criteria for approving, monitoring, and, if necessary, revoking the contracts of multidivision providers of online courses and virtual school programs. This legislation stipulated that the courses or programs must meet certain requirements with regard to accreditation and staffing as well as the educational objectives and assessments in the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL).

The bill allowed local school boards to enter into contracts with approved providers to offer such courses and programs. As guidance to these boards, the Superintendent of Public Instruction developed model policies and procedures pertaining to student access. In addition, the legislation required the Virginia Department of Education to develop a Web site containing relevant information, including course content, registration information, teacher qualifications, and completion rates. The local boards were required to post information on their Web sites to enable visitors to understand and compare various options for learners, including the types of online courses and programs available, conditions under which divisions will pay course fees and other costs for nonresident students, and criteria for granting high school credit.

In 2011, the Department of Education developed and implemented the multidivision online provider application process, including the Criteria for Approval of Multidivision Online Providers and the application, appeal, and monitoring process approved by the Board of Education (see Appendix B). During this initial application period, 13 organizations were approved to offer online instruction as multidivision online providers. During the second year of program implementation, the legislation required monitoring of the approved providers and the reopening of the application window.

Eleven of the thirteen organizations approved in 2011 offered courses to students in Virginia during the 2011-2012 school year. These organizations completed monitoring reports in June 2012. After reviewing data from these reports and conducting monitoring interviews with the providers, the Department of Education identified several issues: some approved providers were not offering approved courses, some approved providers were hiring teachers without Virginia licensure, and there were discrepancies between data submitted by providers and the data collected via the Student Records Collection (SRC). These issues are detailed in this report.

The second application window opened in 2012. Provider applications were accepted for 30 days, beginning January 3, 2012. During that time, seven organizations submitted new applications and course correlation documents, and providers approved in 2011 submitted new courses for review and approval. After a thorough review, six of the new applicants were approved as multidivision online providers. For the one application not approved, review teams noted significant deficiencies in data collection and reporting capabilities, pupil performance standards, Section 508 compliance, teacher licensure requirements, and correlation to the SOL.

The provider monitoring process will continue during the 2012-2013 school year. The application window will reopen in January 2013 for the 2013-2014 school year.