You asked whether the V.I.L.A.S. Interactive Long-Distance Alternative School (V.I.L.A.S.
School), an internet-based electronic school, could qualify as an elementary or secondary
school under Colorado law. You indicated that this information is necessary to determine
whether Shalyn B~, a Colorado secondary school student at the V.I.L.A.S. School, qualifies
for child insurance benefits (CIB) on the account of David B~.
We conclude that the V.I.L.A.S. School, which is an independent study program as defined
under the Program Operations Manual System (POMS), qualifies as a secondary school
under Colorado law.
Shalyn was entitled to CIB on the account of David B~. She turned eighteen in September
2005. She completed a Form SSA 1372-BK, Student's Statement Regarding School Attendance,
indicating that she was to attend the V.I.L.A.S. School from September 6, 2005, to
May 31, 2006. A school official verified the information on the statement. You have
indicated there is no question regarding the status of Shalyn as Mr. B~'s child. You
have not indicated that full-time attendance is an issue.
According to the Colorado Department of Education website, the V.I.L.A.S. School is
in the V.I.L.A.S. RE-5 School District, which is a school district comprised of only
on-line schools that is accredited by the state of Colorado. See http://www.cde.
The Social Security Act (Act) provides for the payment of CIB to certain unmarried
children of individuals who are deceased or who are entitled to old-age or disability
insurance benefits. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d). A child over the age of 18 can continue to receive benefits if
the child is a full-time elementary or secondary school student. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 402(d)(1), 402(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5). "A 'full-time elementary
or secondary student' is an individual who is in full-time attendance as a student
at an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the Secretary (in accordance
with regulations prescribed by him) in light of the standards and practices involved."
42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367,. An "elementary or secondary school"
is a school that provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined
under the law of the state or other jurisdiction in which it is located. Id. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i); see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a).
In defining the term elementary or secondary school, Agency policy "had been in keeping
with the traditional definition of [elementary or secondary school]." See 61 Fed.Reg. 38361 (July 24, 1996). In 1996, however, the definition changed, and
the Agency acknowledged that other types of educational opportunities could qualify
as elementary and secondary schools under the Act; i.e., independent study programs
and home schools. See id.; POMS RS 00205.285.A; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.367. According to the Agency definition, independent study programs
"involve instruction and supervision by a teacher employed by the school (or local
school district) [and] include written agreements for each independent study student
specifying, among other things, the duration of the agreement and a statement of the
number of course credits to be earned by the pupil upon completion. The effect of
the written agreement is to extend the educational setting beyond the traditional
classroom." 61 Fed.Reg. 38362 (July 24, 1996). POMS defines "[i]ndependent study,"
also known as "off-campus" or "alternative school," as a method of alternative secondary
education used in some states. Independent study programs are run by local education
agencies (LEA), such as high schools or school districts, in accordance with specific
State law requirements, and the credits earned count toward high school graduation.
The programs involve periodic teacher contact, direction, and testing on campus, with
the student making academic progress generally through independent study at home.
POMS RS 00205.285.A.
The description of "on-line programs" under Colorado law, see Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-33-104.6 (2005), meets the Agency's definition of independent
study programs. An authorized on-line program provides a sequential program of instruction
for the education of a child who resides in Colorado through services accessible on
the World Wide Web and monitored by a district coordinator and a site coordinator.
See id. § 22-33-104.6(2)(b). Colorado on-line programs are subject to the following criteria:
(a) students must be subject to compulsory school attendance; (b) the program should
have regular assessments of student progress; (c) the program must have an appropriate
curriculum; (d) all students must be tested in the same manner as other students in
the state; (e) the program must have a mentoring program and a process for identifying
alternatives for students who are not making progress; (f) the program must maintain
student records; and (g) all students must be a resident of the state and meet the
guidelines for attendance at the school. See id. § 22-33-104.6(3). The materials you provided reflect that the V.I.L.A.S. School meets
each of these criterion. Moreover, the V.I.L.A.S. School presumably meets these criteria
because it is part of an accredited school district.
Since the V.I.L.A.S. School is a school in an accredited school district, we conclude
that it qualifies under the Act as an independent study program that provides secondary
education under state law.
Deana R. E~L~
Regional Chief Counsel
Allan D. B~
Assistant Regional Counsel