TN 18 (12-11)

PR 08205.004 Arizona

A. PR 12-014 Joshua; Independent Study Program; Online High School

DATE: September 19, 2011

1. SYLLABUS

Arizona educational statutes recognize online instruction as an acceptable form of secondary education, and the Arizona State Board of Charter Schools approved Primavera Online High School (POHS), located in Chandler, Arizona, as an online instructional school in Arizona. POHS is, therefore, an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

QUESTION

Does Joshua’s attendance at the Primavera Online High School qualify as an acceptable independent study program under Arizona law?

SHORT ANSWER

Yes.  The Primavera Online High School qualifies as educational institution under federal law, and its internet-based (online) program provides an acceptable form of approved independent study under Arizona law.

BACKGROUND

Joshua, a recipient of child’s insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, attends classes at Primavera Online High School, an internet-based school.  He has been attending Primavera since August 2009. The Arizona State Board of Charter Schools approved Primavera as an Arizona online instructional school.  The Arizona State Board of Charter Schools provides a list of approved online instructional schools. Primavera’s charter is held by Primavera Technical Learning Center. See Arizona State Board of Charter Schools List of Distance Learning Charter Schools, available at http://www.asbcs.az.gov/userfiles/Distance%20Learning%20Schools%20List%20Revised%20format%209-13-11.pdf  (last visited on Sept. 16, 2011).

On Form SSA-1372-BK, Joshua reported attending online classes at Primavera between 25 to 30 hours per week. He expected to graduate in May 2011. A guidance counselor from Primavera certified under penalty of perjury on the same form that Joshua correctly reported his school attendance and that his program would last at least 13 weeks. 

ANALYSIS

To be eligible for child’s insurance benefits between the ages of 18 and 19, the child must be in full-time attendance (FTA) at an educational institution (EI) that provides elementary or secondary courses. Social Security Act § 202(d)(1)(B), 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367; Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001(A). A student will be considered enrolled in an EI if he or she participates in an independent study program acceptable under the state’s educational statutes. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2); POMS RS 00205.250(B)(5); RS 00205.285(C)(2).  With certain limited exceptions, FTA is defined as 20 hours per week. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c). For an independent study school, “the number of hours spent in school attendance are determined by combining the number of hours of attendance at a school facility with the agreed upon number of hours spent in independent study.” Id.

Arizona educational statutes recognize online instruction as an acceptable form of secondary education. Arizona also permits charter schools as “public schools that serve as alternatives to traditional public schools.” Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-181(A). Pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute § 15-808, the Arizona State Board of Charter Schools has authority to sponsor selected charter schools as an “online schools.” Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-808(A). Arizona law defines an online school as “a school that provides at least four online academic courses or one or more online courses for the equivalent of at least five hours each day for one hundred eighty school days.” Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-808(I)(3).  Arizona law requires the State Board of Charter Schools to annually report which schools participate in Arizona online instruction. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-808(C). State law further requires that online public and charter schools must keep daily logs of the amount of time each participating pupil spends on academic tasks, as part of the school’s daily attendance calculations. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-808(E). 

The Arizona State Board of Charter Schools approved Primavera as an Arizona online instructional school.  Primavera also received accreditation through the North Central Association on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI). See Primavera school website at http://www.primaveratech.org/Online-High-School/aboutourschool/qualityeducation.aspx.  As an approved school, Primavera is required to offer a comprehensive program of instruction meeting the Sta