Friday, September 7, 2012

Potential Abuse of Choice Course Program

My readers are certainly aware by now that I believe there is much potential for abuse of taxpayer funding of the Choice Course Program included in ACT 2 of the 2012 legislative session. I am so concerned about this that on September 4, I sent the email below to all BESE members. I have received a response from BESE president Penny Dastuge promising that answers to my questions will be forthcoming. I am encouraging all my readers to study these issues carefully and share your concerns not only with BESE but with your legislators.

Questions about new choice courses:
Dear BESE member:
The State Department of Education is now receiving proposals for quality choice courses for the 2013-14 school year as stipulated in Act 2 of 2012. It is my understanding that BESE must approve all ChoiceCourse Providers by January 1, 2013. I have reviewed the information on the LDOE web site for Choice Courses
and Choice Course Providers and I have several questions and concerns about the implementation of this program. I would suggest that BESE adopt proper guidelines for this program to insure that our students get good solid instruction and that tax money is used wisely. My questions are as follows:
  1. Will choice course providers be required to deliver a certain number of clock hours of instruction in order for a student to receive one Carnegie unit of credit and for the provider to receive the agreed upon tuition for one Carnegie unit? Could choice course providers offer courses that require different amounts of instruction time for different courses that earn one Carnegie unit of credit?
  2. Could a choice course provider be approved for accelerated choice courses where students who can demonstrate mastery of a course by taking a test would be allowed to complete the course in a shorter period of time than what is normally required for a Carnegie unit of instruction? If the answer to this question is “yes”, would the Choice course provider still receive the same tuition as if the course required a standard number of hours of instruction.
Act 2 stipulates that choice course providers will receive 50% of the agreed upon tuition for each course immediately following the enrollment of students in such courses. The remainder of the tuition is to be paid to the provider at the end of the course. I have the following questions about funding issues:
  1. Suppose a student taking a choice course drops out soon after starting the course and no longer participates in a choice course. Will the choice course provider be required to reimburse the state for any of the initial funding?
  2. Suppose a choice provider expels or otherwise terminates a student enrolled in a choice course soon after the course begins, will there be provision for return of any portion of the tuition?
  3. Suppose a student takes and completes the required number of hours of participation in a choice course and receives a failing grade from the choice provider, will there be any provision for refund of any of the tuition?
  4. Suppose a student takes and receives a passing grade for a choice course for which the state requires end of course testing and the student fails to receive a passing score on the state test. Will there be any provision for any refund of tuition?
  5. Suppose a student takes and passes a credit recovery course from a choice provider, and the student is tested on the course by his home school following the completion of the course and fails to make a score that is acceptable to his local school system for receiving credit for this course. Is the student's local school system still required to give the student credit for such a course? Will the choice course provider be allowed to keep the tuition?
  6. Will choice course providers be required to take attendance roll for students attending choice courses, particularly when the student is attending a course provided at a site provided by the course provider? If roll is taken and the student is found to be absent without excuse for more than the minimum number of days required by BESE for public school attendance, will the student still be allowed to receive a passing grade on the choice course?
  7. In the case where a choice course provider is providing a virtual or Internet delivered course so that the student participates in a choice course from his/her home, will the choice provider be required to take a participation roll each day the student is supposed to be receiving instruction? Will there be a certain number of hours the student in a virtual class must participate in order to receive credit for the course?
  8. What action would the DOE take in a case where there is no evidence provided by the virtual provider that the student actually participated in a minimum number of hours of instruction in a virtual course?
  9. Could a virtual choice course provider substitute an end of course test as validation that a student has completed a virtual choice course instead of requiring the student to “attend” or participate in a certain number of hours of instruction?
  10. Are choice course providers allowed to refuse admission of any students to a choice course when the enrollment limit has not been reached and who have been classified by their local school system as eligible to take the choice course in question?
  11. Would a choice course provider be allowed to test a student wanting to enroll in a choice course and by that means find that the student is not qualified for or prepared to take the choice course in question and thereby deny the student admission even if the student has met all other prerequisites for admission to a course?
I offer the above questions as a taxpayer who is concerned that my tax dollars for education are not wasted or otherwise used by unscrupulous individuals for personal profit without providing proper services to our students. I would very much appreciate a response from BESE on all of the questions above as soon as

Michael Deshotels


Sheila Guidry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Enough regulation to ensure that any child attending any form of "school" created by the laws of the state is able to get the same education, to the same standards, with the same transparency and accountability, with the same qualifications required of its teachers and with the same high quality and research based professional curriculum whose creation and methodology is based on age appropriate content, brain development science and the career and college needs of American society now and in the future. Enough regulation to ensure that all children have access to the resources they need to succeed, are assessed and promoted when each level of curriculum mastery is met, with interventions focused on each individual child's strengths and weaknesses and the approaches are holistic, realistic and authentic. Enough regulations to have professional teachers who meet national standards for experience, advanced degrees and are peer reviewed and nominated in the classroom, as administrators and doing the research for the schools, developing the curriculum and selecting the standards for teacher evaluation and professional accountability. To have enough regulation to provide peer support and mentorship for teachers, interventions for struggling teachers that acknowledges the value and worth of experienced educators and provides respectful professional assistance and training, credentialing, peer reevaluation and/or reinstatement or termination free of vindictiveness or passing political moods. Enough regulation to protect teachers from obstruction and interference from non-educators, provide a peer council with the authority and autonomy to intervene and act on behalf of a teacher at any level and provide and evaluation process based on the teacher's behavior and classroom ability, credentials, professional preparation and teaching skills backed up by research and data collected from long term studies done in the USA by public institutions with researchers free from political or financial bias.

Lee Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT said...

Mike - Your comments are pretty comprehensive and this debate needs to be open and comprehensive at the BESE meeting. The chances of that happening are slim based on previous performance and President Dastugue's obvious attempts to limit the public conversation (and questions by two of its own members for that matter).

The course choice provisions are designed for several reasons - none of which are to the benefit of students. First and foremost this system will be hugely profitable to the providers. The state is want to say it will save taxpayers money but that claim will be proven false after taxpayers are taken to the cleaners - study results of virtual education in other states like Colorado.

Secondly, diverting taxpayer funds from brick and mortar public schools will further squeeze their budgets and reduce their capacity to effectively serve seated students. This paves the way to replace "poorly performing" schools with charters and encourages parents to seek vouchers.

Thirdly, and my greatest fear and prediction is that this is a veiled effort to remove the gifted and talented program in our state by citing that there is no longer a need when students can access "accelerated" coursework at will on line. Although this is just another proof of lack of understanding and expertise about gifted ness and other challenges for exceptional children those of us who are experts will not be heard in the din of rhetoric DOE will spew forth to deceive the public.

I will forward you concerns and this post to all PTA boards in my district and suggest they ask for a BESE representative and Ms. Pozniak to address their concerns personally in a public forum. Parents have been the "sleeping giant" in this education reform debacle. Just as Mayor Rahmbo Emanuel misread parents in Chicago believing they would be the force that sent teachers back into the schools without a viable contract, our state (which claims parents know best ) will find that parents want professional career dedicated highly qualified educators assisting and advising them in making choices for their children.