TN 5 (07-10)

PR 08205.005 Arkansas

A. PR 10-116 Arkansas State Law Requirements for Internet Online Schooling (NH Elizabeth H. H~: SSN ~ : John S. H~, Jr., Student) – REPLY

DATE: May 11, 2010

1. SYLLABUS

The online program at the National High School (NHS) in Atlanta, Georgia, which provides high school courses via the Internet, is not an educational institution (EI) under either Georgia or Arkansas law. Thus, the NHS is not an EI for SSA purposes. If a student alleges full-time attendance at an online school in Georgia or Arkansas other than the NHS in Atlanta, Georgia, and no legal precedent opinion exists for the school, the adjudicator should follow the instructions in RS 00205.295 and GN 01010.815 to obtain a legal precedent opinion about its EI status.

2. OPINION

You have requested an opinion regarding whether the National High School in Atlanta, Georgia, which is an educational institution that provides online high school courses via the Internet (http://www.nationalhighschool.com/), meets the definition of an educational institution under the Social Security Act (Act). The agency accepts public schools in the United States as educational institutions (elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools, and high schools). See Social Security Administration Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.250(B)(1). With state or other local jurisdiction approval, certain preparatory and postsecondary schools may provide education at the secondary level or below, and the agency will consider those schools educational institutions. Id. RS 00205.250(A). We believe that the National High School online program is not an educational institution under the Act, and that as a result, John H~ (John’s) entitlement to benefits on the number holder’s account stopped once he turned eighteen. The facts indicate that in August 2000, John became entitled to child’s insurance benefits. John resides in Arkansas. John attained age 18 in December 2009, after which the agency terminated his child’s insurance benefits. In December 2009, John completed SSA Form 1372, Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance, stating that he had been attending the National High School based in Atlanta, Georgia, since September 1, 2009; that he was scheduled to attend online instruction for 35 hours per week; that his school year would end in May 2010; and that he expected to graduate in May 2010. A National High School official certified that John was enrolled in an on-line school program, with full-time attendance, but that the National High School did not monitor the student’s full-time attendance. A National High School’s registrar signed and dated SSA Form 1382, certifying that the National High School’s course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration. On March 24, 2010, Michelle R~, a National High School’s registrar, represented during a telephone conference that the National High School is a privately owned program that is not affiliated with the State of Georgia, and that the National High School is not required and does not report student enrollment to Georgia public school districts or any other state official or department. The Act provides for the payment of child’s insurance benefits to certain applicants over the age of 18 who are full-time elementary or secondary Secondary school is a school intermediate between elementary school and college and usually offers general, technical, vocational, or college-preparatory courses. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secondary%20school. school (educational institution) The POMS refer to elementary or secondary education schools, grade 12 or below, as educational institutions. See POMS RS 00205.200(A). students. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 402(d)(1)(B), 402(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5); POMS RS 00205.001(A). Under the Act, an educational institution is a school that provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under the law of the state or other jurisdiction in which it is located. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.300. The regulations consider a home school program The evidence you provided does not show that John was in a home school program while taking classes from the National High School. or an independent study program Independent study programs are run by local education agencies such as high schools or school districts, in accordance with specific State law requirements, and the credits earned count towards high school graduation. See POMS RS 00205.285(A). to be an educational institution if it is in accordance with the law of the state in which the student resides. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1), (2). As an initial matter, we address the issue of whether John is a full-time student at the National High School. As previously noted, in order to be eligible to receive child’s insurance benefits, an applicant who is 18 years of age but has not attained age 19 must be a full-time student, based on Federal standards, at an educational institution. See 42 U.S.C. 402(d)(1)(B); POMS RS 00205.285. The agency considers a student to be a full-time student if he attends a school that provides a secondary education under the law of the state in which the school is located and if the student: (1) is in full-time attendance in a day or evening non-correspondence course of at least 13 weeks duration; (2) carries a subject load considered full-time for day students under the institution’s standards and practices; and (3) attends school at least 20 hours a week. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(C). The National High School program does not monitor full-time attendance. Thus, the agency cannot confirm whether John is in full-time attendance at the National High School. Although we cannot confirm John’s full-time attendance at the National High School, we address the question of whether the National High School qualifies as an educational institution under Georgia law. Georgia recognizes three types of educational institutions: public schools, private schools, and home school programs. Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(a). The National High School is privately owned and is not affiliated with the State of Georgia. Therefore, we conclude that the National High School is not a Georgia public school under Georgia law. The National High School is also not a private school under Georgia law. To qualify as a private school under Georgia law, an institution must (1) provide education as its primary purpose; (2) be privately controlled and operate on a continuing basis; (3) provide instruction each 12 months for the equivalent of 180 school days of education with each school day consisting of at least four and one-half school hours; (4) provide a basic academic educational program that includes reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science; (5) provide the school superintendent of each local public school district with the name, age, and residence of each of the residents enrolled in the private school and provide monthly updates of students who enroll or terminate enrollment in the private school; and (6) meet local health and safety standards. Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(b). The National High School does not meet the reporting or attendance criteria of Section 20-2-690(b) of the Georgia Code. The National High School is not affiliated with the State of Georgia and does not report student enrollment to the superintendents of the local public school districts or to any other state official or department. The National High School’s website states that the virtual campus is in continuous online operation and is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. See http://www.nationalhighschool.com/curriculum.asp (last viewed on April 30, 2010). However, a National High School official reported that the National High School online program does not monitor attendance of any individual student, which means that the online program does not confirm a student attends the equivalent of 180 school days of education with each school day consisting of at least four and one-half school hours. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(b) (criteria institutions must meet to qualify as private schools under Georgia law). Rather, the National High School’s website provides that students “choose the times when they believe they are best prepared to engage in particular learning activities and spend as long as they want working on them.” See Footnote 6. Because the National High School does not meet the state’s reporting or attendance requirements, it does not qualify as a private school under Georgia law. While Georgia recognizes a home school program as an educational institution, we conclude that Georgia would also not recognize the National High School as a home school program. Under Georgia law, parents and guardians may teach their children in a home school program that meets certain requirements. Because the National High School is not a parent or guardian of the students enrolled in its program, it fails as a threshold matter to qualify as a home school program under Georgia law. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(3) (parents or guardians may teach only their own children in the home school program). Furthermore, the National High School does not qualify as a home school program under Georgia law because it does not meet the reporting or attendance requirements of the statute. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(1), (2), (5), (6). These sections require a written declaration listing the names and ages of each home-schooled student be filed with the local superintendent of schools; certification that instruction is provided an equivalent of 180 days per year with each day being at least four and one-half hours; and the monthly submission of attendance records to the local superintendent of schools. Id. The National High School does not meet these requirements. Because the National High School does not qualify as an educational institution under Georgia law, we next address the question of whether the National High School qualifies as an educational institution under Arkansas law. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a). As previously noted, the agency will consider certain schools to be educational institutions if the state or other local jurisdictions approved the school to provide education at the secondary level or below. POMS RS 00205.250. The agency accepts public schools in the United States as educational institutions (elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools, and high schools). See POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1). The evidence shows that the National High School is not a public school because it is privately owned and is not affiliated with the State of Arkansas. In addition, Arkansas or any local jurisdiction in the State of Arkansas has not approved the National High School to provide education at the secondary level or below. The evidence also shows that the Arkansas Nonpublic School Accrediting Association (ANSAA) has not accredited the National High School. See ANSAA Directory 2009-2010, “Promoting Quality Education.” An electronic copy of the ANSAA Directory 2009-2010, “Promoting Quality Education,” is available in “.pdf” format at http://www.ansaa.com/memberschools.htm (last viewed on April 30, 2010). Therefore, the National High School is not an educational institution under Arkansas law. While Arkansas also recognizes a home school program as an educational institution, we conclude that Arkansas would not recognize the National High School as a home school program. Under Arkansas law, parents and guardians may teach their children in a home school program. See Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-15-501, 6-15-503, 6-15-504. Because the National High School is not a parent or guardian of the students enrolled in its program, it fails as a threshold matter to qualify as a home school program under Arkansas law. See Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-501 (home school means a school “provided by a parent or legal guardian for his or her own child”). Furthermore, the National High School does not qualify as a home school program under Arkansas law because it does not meet the reporting and testing requirements of the statute. See Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-503(a)(1). Under Arkansas law, the parents or guardians desiring to provide a home school for their children must give written notice to the superintendent of their local school district of their intent to provide a home school for their children and sign a waiver acknowledging that the State of Arkansas is not liable for the education of their children during the time that the parents choose to home school. Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-15-503, 6-15-504. There is no evidence that anyone gave written notice to the superintendent of John’s local school district regarding attending a home school program while taking classes from the National High School program. In addition, to qualify as a home school program, each student must take a standardized achievement test that the Arkansas Department of Education administers each year. Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-504(b)(1)(A). There is also no evidence that John has taken or will take the Arkansas Department of Education standardized achievement test. Thus, the National High School does not qualify as a home school program under Arkansas law. We next address the issue of whether the National High School qualifies as an independent study program An independent study is also known as off campus or alternative school. POMS RS 00205.285(A). under Arkansas law. The regulations define an independent study program as an elementary or secondary education program in accordance with the law of the state or other jurisdiction in which the student resides which the local school or school district administers. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2). The POMS further define an independent study program as a program that local education agencies, such as high schools or school districts, run in accordance with specific state law requirements, and the credits earned count toward high school graduation. POMS RS 00205.285(A). Independent study programs involve periodic teacher contact, direction, and testing on campus, with the student making academic progress generally through independent study at home. Id. In Arkansas, the Department of Education oversees and coordinates the implementation of distance learning, Distance learning is the technology, educational process, and independent study program that Arkansas schools use to provide instruction when the student and primary instructor are not physically present at the same time and place. See Arkansas Department of Education Rules Governing Distance Learning” (RGDL), Rule 3.05. which is what is used to conduct independent study programs, in elementary and secondary public schools and promulgates rules and regulations to establish appropriate adult supervision in distance-learning courses. See Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-47-201(a)-(b), 6-47-302(a). The Department of Education must approve all distance learning courses, including out-of-state course providers, before an educational institution may import those courses through distance learning. See Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-47-201(c)(1), 6-47-302(b)(1); see also RGDL, Rule 4.01. An electronic copy of the RGDL can be found at http://dlc.k12.ar.us/ (last viewed on April 30, 2010). The Department of Education requires that all distance-learning courses have an appropriately licensed or approved primary instructor; Appropriately licensed or approved instructor is a teacher either licensed to teach the content of the required course in a public school in Arkansas or that the Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education approves to teach the content through distance-learning technology. The intent of the approval process is to provide flexibility for the approval of teachers of programs originating from outside Arkansas, exceptionally qualified individuals within the state whom may not meet licensure requirements, or teachers of courses that do not have an appropriate licensure requirement. RGDL, Rule 3.03. that an adult facilitator An adult facilitator is the person responsible for supervising and assisting the students at the receiving site. The adult facilitator must be an adult approved by the school district. See RGDL, Rule 3.01. must be present when student achievement assessments used to determine a student’s final grade are administered in a distance-learning course; and that all distance learning courses must comply with the Arkansas Standards for Accreditation. See RGDL Rules 4.02, 4.04, 4.05. The only representation that the National High School program makes is that it is accredited by the Commission on International Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). There is no evidence that the Arkansas Department of Education has approved the National High School courses; that the National High School has appropriately licensed or approved primary instructors; that the National High School has an adult facilitator during student achievement assessments; and that the National High School online courses comply with the Arkansas Standards for Accreditation. Thus, the National High School does not qualify as an independent study program under Arkansas law.

In conclusion, we cannot confirm whether John is a full-time student at the National High School. However, the National High School is not an educational institution under either Georgia law or Arkansas law. Therefore, John is not a full-time student at an educational institution under the Act, and his entitlement to child’s insurance benefits on the number holder’s account stopped once he turned eighteen.

Michael M~
Regional Chief Counsel

By_________

Ruben M~
Assistant Regional Counsel


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1508205005
PR 08205.005 - Arkansas - 10/22/2010
Batch run: 10/22/2010
Rev:10/22/2010