Virtual schools come under state scrutiny

Oregon, Wyoming find virtual schools in violation of state education rules.

Virtual schools are such a new and growing phenomenon that policy makers are having a tough time regulating them. Online programs are increasingly the targets of compliance investigations, reports eSchool News. Can legislation be far behind?

The Oregon Department of Education claims the Oregon Connections Academy, an online charter school based in Scio, OR, has violated state law by requiring parents to serve as learning coaches as a condition of student enrollment. The school needs to only suggest - not require - that parents act as learning coaches.

The state also said that the school must use a lottery rather than a policy of admitting students on a first-come, first-served basis. The state Attorney General's office said a charter school can use only age or grade level as a condition for enrollment. Until the matter has been resolved, funding has been put in an escrow account. The school has 60 days to come under compliance.

A Wyoming K-6 virtual school has also come under scrutiny because the Campbell County school board has decided not to open up its planned virtual school to students outside the county.

"We already had enough kids from our district express interest, so we are moving forward. We might not get to the 100 that we wanted, but we will have a school," Assistant Superintendent Ed Weber said.

Officials in Wyoming are meeting with the state legislature's Joint Education Committee soon to discuss possible legislation governing virtual schools in Wyoming.

"There [are] all kinds of issues" to consider, said Mary Kay Hill, the department's director of administration. "There are issues regarding certification of teachers, connection to the state standards, how attendance is counted, assessment issues."


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