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