Arizona Online School Accountability Update

Previous blog posts have explored accountability related to digital schools in general, and how Arizona has been considering changes to accountability requirements for online schools. The Arizona Department of Education recently proposed to the Arizona State Board of Education (SBE) a set of changes to the accountability system for Arizona Online Instruction (AOI). Specifically, the issues and changes include:

  • The current system leaves too many AOI schools as unrated. This situation violates the intent of state education code and the conditions of the waiver the state is seeking from NCLB requirements under the federal Department of Education’s flexibility rules. The changes would increase the number of schools receiving a rating.
  • AOI schools are required to have a 95% rate at which students participate in state testing. Despite ramifications for not reaching this level, some schools do not, and they are penalized even in situations when a student has taken the state test but is associated with a physical school. ADE proposes counting all students as having taken the test for AOI accountability purposes even if the student took the test while associated with a physical school.
  • Particular attention is on increasing the important of student growth relative to proficiency, and also on graduation rate calculations. The ADE also recognizes that virtual schools serve a mobile population with diverse set of academic goals. The proposed system would reward schools for retaining under-credited students, and also reward schools for students’ growth towards graduation. It would also reward schools for graduating students in five, six, and seven years.

In late March the Arizona SBE unanimously approved the changes. See page five of the “summary of board action” for details.

Some other states, such as Colorado, have implemented different accountability systems for schools based on the student demographics of the school (e.g. Colorado’s Alternative Education Campuses). Some online schools fall under these alternative systems based on their student demographics, which are often based on having a very high percentage of at-risk students. To our knowledge, this is the first example of a state implementing a different system based on the mode of instruction. We will be watching to see how this plays out in practice.