A variety of new legislation this year may help K-12 educators implement digital and open source resources in their classrooms. AB 802 would allow school districts to capture attendance (ADA) for online courses their students take and SB 613 would encourage open source textbook materials. Today’s post is about a new Senate bill, SB 532, that promises to open up online courses to students throughout California. The bill mandates that all high school students have access to “high quality” Advanced Placement (AP) courses, regardless of school size. All students in grades nine through 12 would be offered AP courses in English, history, world languages, math, and science beginning the 2013/14 school year.
While large, urban high schools may have critical mass to provide AP courses in all these areas, smaller and rural high schools have neither the teaching staff nor the numbers of students necessary to make them financially viable. SB 532 suggests that these districts consider “alternative means of providing advanced placement courses, including high-quality online courses.” The bill currently defines “high-quality” as a course that meets the following criteria:
- The course is approved by the LEA’s governing board (which is the same process used to approve (not adopt) high school textbooks.)
- The LEA’s governing board certifies, in a resolution, that the course’s curriculum is rigorous and that it meets or exceeds all “relevant” state content standards. (Quotes by me. I’m not certain which content standards in Algebra I aren’t relevant. )
- Either the remote teacher is online at the same time as the pupil and is able to make a visible connection to the student OR the asynchronous, remote teacher is available by other means to track student progress, which includes proctoring exams, direct teacher-student meetings, and a visual connection via web cam.
- The student teacher ratio is greater than or equal to the ratio in the district’s regular classrooms.
I’m certain that the state’s 1000 districts will have their hands full reviewing AP courses, which will prove to be an expensive, time-consuming task. With scores of possible AP courses to select from, districts may be tempted to cut corners and conduct a less than thorough review. Consider results of a California survey conducted last summer that asked districts their selection criteria for online credit recovery courses. Three of the more common responses were vendor demonstrations, cost, and an open bid to vendors. If districts are going to be mandated to offer online AP courses to students, shouldn’t those courses be high quality, be aligned to the Common Core State Standards or California’s original content standards, and be approved by the College Board?
Missing in SB 532 is a reference to iNACOL’s (and CLRN’s) standards of quality for online courses, which CLRN and a national stakeholder group rewrote this year. Certainly, a “high-quality” course should be one that is aligned to California’s original content standards or to the Common Core State Standards. However, online courses should also fully align to national standards for quality online courses. CLRN’s and iNACOL’s 52 course standards are organized in five areas: content, instructional design, student assessment, technology, and course evaluation and support. Given that taking and teaching an online course is quite different than teaching or participating in a face-to-face course, districts should be aware how online courses align to criteria for quality online courses.
However, are districts prepared to create teams of reviewers to analyze scores of AP courses for their alignment to 30 or more content standards and the 52 online course standards or will they take an easier route and make their selections based on price? CLRN suggests that SB 532 be amended to include CLRN’s and iNACOL’s course criteria and that districts be advised to utilize CLRN’s course reviews for their selections.