TN 2 (03-10)

PR 08205.032 New Hampshire

A. PR 10-067 Online Schooling in the Region I States

DATE: March 4, 2010

1. SYLLABUS

The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) in New Hampshire is a state-funded online charter high school, which provides secondary education in accordance with New Hampshire law. Thus, VLACS is an educational institution for SSA purposes. The student must also meet Federal standards for full-time attendance and all other requirements for payment of benefits. If student alleges full-time attendance at an online school in New Hampshire other than VLACS, the adjudicator should follow the instructions in RS 00205.295 and in GN 01010.815.

New Hampshire

2. OPINION

This is in response to your request for an opinion addressing: (1) whether the States in Region I recognize online schools as educational institutions, and if so, (2) the criteria used by each State to determine whether a particular online school qualifies as an educational institution.

In the event that any of these States do not recognize online schooling, you asked us to provide the State’s general requirements for recognizing a school as an educational institution.

Connecticut

Currently, there is no formal law or policy in Connecticut governing online schooling, though the practice is recognized by the State. 1_/ It is up to each local school district to decide whether to allow students enrolled in their public schools to take online courses for credit. Home-schooled students may also enroll in online schools as long as the instruction rendered is “equivalent” to that provided by the local public schools. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-184. All children in Connecticut must be instructed in the following subjects: reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic, United States history and citizenship, and local, state and federal government. Id. Therefore, any home-schooling program, online-course-based or otherwise, would have to include instruction in these subjects. See id.

Connecticut has established its own state-run online high school program known as the CT Virtual Learning Center (“CTVLC”). Home-schooled students and students from participating public and private schools may enroll in CTVLC online courses, which have been approved by the Connecticut State Department of Education’s Bureau of Curriculum and are taught by Connecticut certified teachers. See http://www.ctvirtuallearning.com. The State also has established the Connecticut Adult Virtual High School, which offers online courses for credit to students enrolled in the State’s Adult Credit High School Diploma Programs. 2_/ See http://www.ctvhs.org/.

Another popular online school catering to Connecticut high school students is the Virtual High School Global Consortium. For a list of Connecticut schools participating in the Virtual High School Global Consortium, see http://www.govhs.org/Pages/AboutUs-ParticipatingSchools. The Virtual Learning Academy also provides online courses to Connecticut students in grades K-12. See http://www.crec.org/tabs/district/downloads/VLA_Flier.pdf.

Maine

Maine recognizes online schooling as an alternative to traditional public school classroom attendance and allows local school districts to enroll their students in either full- or part-time online learning programs. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, §§ 5001-A(2)(E) and 19154. To be eligible, students must reside in Maine, be under twenty-one years of age, and be enrolled in public school in grades K-12. See id. § 19154. However, there are no mandatory criteria that an online school must meet in order to offer courses in Maine; local school districts are free to use any online program they choose. 3_/ See id. §§ 19151-54.

Nevertheless, the State recommends that local school districts use online schools that have been approved by the Maine Department of Education (“Department”). To be approved by the Department, an online school must demonstrate that it meets the following criteria:

A. It must be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices and operations;

B. Each course offered for credit must meet State academic standards;

C. Teachers must hold valid teaching certificates in each subject area being taught or receive approval from the State Commissioner of Education;

D. Teachers must receive appropriate training in online schooling;

E. The online school must verify ongoing student attendance, progress and performance in each course as documented by ongoing assessments in a proctored environment and provide examples of student course work;

F. Administrators, teachers, and other educational staff employed by the school must comply with State law requiring fingerprinting and background checks; and

G. The school must comply with the State’s information technology accessibility policies and standards.

See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 19153(2) (2009). In granting approval, the Department also will consider the online school’s “demonstrated experience in the operation and management of online learning programs and courses, including the number of students served and proven academic success as measured by student performance and state assessment results.” Id. § 19153(1). Although currently there is no list of approved online schools, the Department is expected to publish such a list by June 30, 2010. See id. § 19153.

Home-schooled students also are free to enroll in online programs as long as the students comply with the state home-schooling law. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, §§ 5001-A(2)(E), 5001-A(3)(c-1). To begin a valid home-schooling program, a student must file a written notice of intent with his local school officials and the Department. See id. § 5001-A(3)(A)(4). 4_/ Thereafter, the student must file a letter of continuation at the beginning of each subsequent year of home instruction, along with an approved form of annual assessment of his academic progress. See id. § 5001-A(3)(A)(4)(b). 5_/ Assuming the student complies with these home-schooling requirements, his online coursework would be recognized as valid by the State.

Massachusetts

There is no formal law or policy in Massachusetts governing online schooling. In practice, however, it is generally treated as a form of home schooling, which is regulated at the local level. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 76, § 1; Care & Protection of Charles, 504 N.E. 2d 592, 597 (Mass. 1987). Before a proposed home-schooling program may be implemented, it must be evaluated and approved by the local school committee or superintendant of the municipality where the student resides. Charles, 504 N.E. 2d at 600. 6_/

Accordingly, because home-schooling programs are approved on a case by case basis at the local level, there are no fixed criteria by which to measure whether a particular online school qualifies as an educational institution in Massachusetts. Rather, in determining whether a claimant taking online courses as part of a home-schooling program is deemed to attend an educational institution under Massachusetts law, the question is whether the student’s program has been approved by his local school committee.

As a supplement to their curricula, some school districts (and private schools) in Massachusetts allow their students to take online courses for credit, through online schools such as the Virtual High School Global Consortium. For a list of Massachusetts schools participating in the Virtual High School Global Consortium, see http://www.govhs.org/Pages/AboutUs-ParticipatingSchools.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire not only recognizes online schooling, it has its own state-funded online charter high school, The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (“VLACS”). See New Hampshire Department of Education, Online School Information, http://www.ed.state.nh.us/education/doe/organization/curriculum/onlineschoolinformation.htm. New Hampshire high school students may enroll in VLACS on a full- or part-time basis. See http://www.vlacs.org/. 7_/

Online schooling provided by other, non-charter institutions is treated as a form of home schooling. See New Hampshire Department of Education, Online School Information, http://www.ed.state.nh.us/education/doe/organization/curriculum/onlineschoolinformation.htm. In determining whether a claimant taking online courses as part of a home-schooling program is deemed to attend an educational institution under New Hampshire law, the question is whether the student’s program has been approved by the State Department of Education, the local school district, or the principal of a local nonpublic school. See N.H. Code Admin. R. Ann. Ed. 315.05.

Approval is contingent upon the student filing an annual notification letter describing the proposed home-schooling program. 8_/ See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 193-A:5; id.. The home- schooling program must include instruction in the following subjects: science, mathematics, language, government, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, constitutional history of New Hampshire and the United States, and “an exposure to and appreciation of art and music.” See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 193-A:4. The student also must submit an annual educational evaluation documenting his progress at a level commensurate with his age and ability. See id. § 193-A:6. 9_/ Noncompliance with these requirements may result in the denial of a proposed program or the termination of an existing program. See N.H. Code Admin. R. Ann. Ed. 315.05, 315.07-09.

The State also permits its local school districts to offer credit for online courses to its public school students if the school districts have adopted policies requiring that: (1) the courses comply with all federal and state law pertaining to student privacy and to public broadcasting of audio and video; (2) credit courses must meet similar academic standards as required by the school for traditional courses; (3) only students approved by the particular school may take such courses for credit; and, (4) participating students must participate in assessments required by the statewide education improvement assessment program. See N.H. Code Admin. R. Ed. 306.22. Additionally, the school districts must adopt policies relative to: (1) the number of students a teacher may be required to supervise; (2) monitoring of student progress, grading, and testing; (3) security of individual student records; and, (4) gathering and disseminating of district-level data obtained through participation in the online courses. See id. 10_/

Rhode Island

There is no formal law or policy in Rhode Island governing online schooling. In practice, however, it is generally treated as a form of home schooling, which is regulated at the local level. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-1. Before a proposed home-schooling program may be implemented, it must be evaluated and approved by the local school committee of the municipality where the student resides. Id. Although there are several statewide requirements 11_/ that a home-schooling program must meet in order to secure approval, local school committees may also impose their own additional requirements. See id. §§ 16-19-1 and 16-19-2. If a school committee denies a particular home-schooling proposal, the student has the right to appeal the denial to the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which may reverse or affirm the school committee’s decision. See id. § 16-19-2.

Accordingly, because these home-schooling programs are approved on a case by case basis at the local level, there are no fixed criteria by which to measure whether a particular online school qualifies as an educational institution in Rhode Island. Rather, in determining whether a claimant taking online courses as part of a home-schooling program is deemed to attend an educational institution under Rhode Island law, the question is whether the student’s program has been approved, either initially by his local school committee, or on appeal by the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

As a supplement to their curricula, some local school districts (and private schools) in Rhode Island allow their students to earn credit by taking online courses offered by online schools such as the Virtual High School Global Consortium. For a list of Rhode Island schools participating in the Virtual High School Global Consortium, see http://www.govhs.org/Pages/AboutUs-ParticipatingSchools.

Vermont

Vermont will recognize an online school as an educational institution if the State Board of Education (“Board”) has designated it as an “approved independent distance learning school.” See Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166(b)(6); 004 Vt. Code R. §§ 2231. 12_/

At present there are two approved independent distance learning schools in Vermont: Oak Meadow School and Liberty High School Diploma Program. See Vermont Department of Education, Directory of Vermont Approved and Recognized Independent Schools, Approved Tutorials and Distance Learning Schools, Other Educational Programs, and State-Operated Facilities (2009), http://education.vermont.gov/new/pdfdoc/pgm_independent/educ_independent_directory.pdf.

Online schools that have not been approved by the Board as independent distance learning schools may nevertheless offer courses to home-schooled students in Vermont. See Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, §§ 166b and 1121. In determining whether a claimant taking online courses as part of a home-schooling program is deemed to attend an educational institution under Vermont law, the question is whether the student’s program has been approved by the State Department of Education (“Department”).

Before a proposed home-schooling program can be implemented, an enrollment notice describing the program must be filed with and approved by the Department on an annual basis. See VT. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166b. 13_/ The Department will approve the home-schooling program on the basis of the enrollment notice unless it has significant doubt as to whether the program will provide the student with an age- and ability-appropriate “minimum course of study”, in which case it will hold a hearing before approving or denying the program. See id. §§ 166b and 906. For students 13 years of age and older, the minimum course of study includes instruction in the following subject areas: reading, writing, and the use of numbers; Vermont and United States citizenship, history, and government; English, American, and other literature; natural sciences; and other subject areas selected by the home-study program. See id. §§ 166b and 906. Absent the Department’s enrollment approval, a home-schooling program is not recognized by the State of Vermont. See id. § 166b(h).

As a supplement to their curricula, some school districts (and private schools) in Vermont allow their students to take online courses for credit, through online schools such as the Virtual High School Global Consortium. For a list of Vermont schools participating in the Virtual High School Global Consortium, see http://www.govhs.org/Pages/AboutUs-ParticipatingSchools. Beginning in Fall 2010, the Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative will offer online courses to students enrolled in Vermont schools in grades 9-12. See http://vtvlc.org/about.html.

1_/ Legislation is pending in the Connecticut General Assembly that would establish such a policy. The proposed legislation would allow local boards of education to grant high school credit for online coursework if they have adopted policies meeting certain criteria, including: (1) the workload required by the online course is equivalent to that of the traditional classroom setting; (2) the content is rigorous and aligned with curriculum guidelines approved by the State Board of Education; (3) the course engages students and has interactive components, such as required interactions between students and teachers, participation in online demonstrations, discussion boards, or virtual labs; and, (4) the courses are taught by certified teachers who have received training in online teaching or are offered by higher education institutions that are regionally or Department of Higher Education accredited. See Raised Senate Bill No. 947, An Act Concerning High School Credit for Approved Online Coursework and Issues Relating to Student Withdrawal from Public Schools, available at http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/FC/2009SB-00947-R001008-FC.htm.

2_/ These programs are generally open to Connecticut residents aged 16 years or older who are not enrolled public elementary or secondary school programs. See Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 10-67 and 10-69.

3_/ One frequently used online school is the Virtual High School Global Consortium. For a list of Maine schools participating in the Virtual High School Global Consortium, see http://www.govhs.org/Pages/AboutUs-ParticipatingSchools

4_/ The notice of intent must contain the following information: (1) The name, signature, and address of the student’s parent or guardian; (2) The name and age of the student; (3) The date the home instruction program will begin; (4) A statement of assurance that the instruction will be at least 175 days of length annually and will include the following subject areas: English and language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education, health education, library skills, fine arts, and, in at least one grade level from 6-12, Maine studies. The student must also demonstrate proficiency in the use of computers at some point during the 7-12 grade levels; and (5) A statement assuring that the home instruction program will include an annual assessment of the student’s academic progress. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 5001-A(3)(A)(4).

5_/ The following are valid forms of assessment: (a) a standardized achievement test administered through the administrative unit in which the student resides or through other arrangements approved by the department; (b) a test developed by the local school officials appropriate to the student’s home instruction program; (c) a review and acceptance of the student’s progress by an identified individual who holds a current Maine teacher’s certificate; (d) a review and acceptance of the student’s progress based on, but not limited to, a presentation of an educational portfolio of the student to a local area homeschooling support group whose membership for this purpose includes a currently certified Maine teacher or administrator; or (e) a review and acceptance of the student’s progress by a local advisory board selected by the local superintendent that includes one administrative unit employee and two home instruction tutors. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 5001-A(3)(A)(4)(b).

6_/ The school district must approve a home schooling program when it is satisfied that the instruction provided is equal “in thoroughness and efficiency, and in the progress made therein” to that of the local public schools. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 76, § 1; Charles, 504 N.E. 2d at 597. Any requirements that the local school district wishes to impose on the program must be “essential to the State interest in ensuring that all the children shall be educated.” Charles, 504 N.E. 2d at 600.

7_/ Another New Hampshire charter school, Great Bay eLearning Charter School, offers at least part of its curriculum in an online format. See http://www.gbecs.org/.

8_/ The notification must contain the following information: (1) the student’s name, address, and date of birth; (2) parental contact information; (3) the program commencement date; (4) the list of subjects to be taught; (5) the name of the online school; (6) an outline of the scope and instructional sequence for each subject; a list of textbooks or other instructional materials used. See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 193-A:5; N.H. Admin. R. Ann. Ed. 315.04.

9_/ Acceptable forms of evaluation include: (a) written evaluation completed by a certified or non-public school teacher; (b) results at or above the fortieth percentile on a national student achievement test; (c) results at or above the fortieth percentile on a State student assessment test used by the local school district; (d) any other valid measurement tool agreed upon by the student and the Department, local school district, or nonpublic school principal. See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 193-A:6.

10_/ One online high school used by numerous New Hampshire school districts is the Virtual High School Global Consortium. For a list of New Hampshire schools participating in the Virtual High School Global Consortium, see http://www.govhs.org/Pages/AboutUs-ParticipatingSchools.

11_/ The student’s attendance must be “substantially equal” to that required of public schools, which presently are required to provide 5 ½ hours of scholastic instruction per day, over the course of 180 school days per year. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-2; 010 R.I. Code R. § 010. Records of the student’s attendance must be maintained. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-19-2. The quality of the instruction must be “thorough and efficient.” Id. Additionally, the following subjects must be taught in the English language to “substantially the same extent” as they are taught in the public schools: reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, the history of the United States, the history and government of Rhode Island, the principles of American government, civics relative to Rhode Island and the United States, and health and physical education. See id. §§ 16-19-2, 16-22-2, and 16-22-4; see also Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Home Instruction, http://www.ride.ri.gov/Instruction/home_school.aspx.

12_/ This opinion does not address the Board’s requirements for approval because they are too numerous and intricate to provide actionable guidance. See 004 Vt. Code R. §§ 2227-2227, 2231-2234.8. It is recommended that the field office simply determine whether the Board has actually designated the online school as an approved independent distance learning school.

13_/ The enrollment notice generally must contain the following information: (1) The student’s name, age, and birth date; (2) The names, mailing addresses, town of legal residence, and telephone numbers of any parents or guardians of the student; (3) A progress assessment of the student’s performance in each area of the minimum course of study during the previous year of home schooling (acceptable forms of progress assessment include: a report in a form designated by the Department and completed by a Vermont licensed teacher; a report prepared by the student’s parents or instructor together with a portfolio of the student’s work that includes works samples; or the complete results of a standardized achievement test approved by the Department); (4) Independent professional evidence as to whether the student has a disability (for students not previously home schooled or enrolled in public school in Vermont); (5) Detailed description of the content of each subject area of the minimum course of study; (6) Names, addresses, telephone numbers, and signatures of the course instructors; and, (7) Signatures of the student’s parents or guardians who are legally authorized to make educational decisions for the student (or the student’s signature if he is at least 18 years of age). See VT. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, § 166b(a).


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PR 08205.032 - New Hampshire - 10/22/2010
Batch run: 10/22/2010
Rev:10/22/2010