(I have repeatedly tried to get clarity on these issues from OSPI. I am now using the documentation they have at their website.)
There are two main issues.
Here's the first one via a legislative document reviewing ALEs (bold mine):
For ALE, the WSLP represents the student’s academic program. It describes the course or courses the student is taking, including the learning activities for each course—it defines the student’s full alternative learning experience. Therefore, for an ALE student, there is no basis for the district to pay for any courses, experiences, or services not included in the WSLP.
That pretty much says that the WSLP is the raison d'etre for an ALE. Now the RCW doesn't have a specific time by which there has to be an WSLP but an OSPI webinar from April 2013 makes it very clear that districts have to have this plan in place for all that follows.
As well, a "certificated teacher" has to approve the WSLP prior to the start date and monthly count date for enrollment.
Referencing the Superintendent's memo from Friday to districts about taking in these charter students via ALEs, the Superintendent seems to say, "WSLP? What WSLP? We don't need those" because, despite the fact that this ALE would have to start almost immediately in mid-December, the Superintendent gives these schools until FEBRUARY to get them filed.
So what is the ALE program without a WSLP? Almost makes it look like it's just a paper shield that the charters will have until the Legislature gets around to (possibly) funding them sometime in what? mid-late February?
From the webinar:
Teacher approval is a method of documenting that a certificated teacher approved a specific student's individualized WSLP on a specified date. This can be accomplished using different mechanisms, such as a dated teacher signature on the WSLP or an electronic system that would log final approval. The importance of this requirement is to ensure the individualized WSLP was approved by a certificated teacher prior to the WSLP start date and monthly count date for enrollment reporting.
Each student’s monthly progress evaluation should definitively state if the student made satisfactory progress or not. This statement should be signed (physically or digitally) and dated by the reviewing teacher.
The rules state that the “educational progress of each student…must be evaluated at least once each calendar month of enrollment” (subsection 4(c)).
Wait, what? Students in an ALE have to be evaluated every month? But how will charter students be evaluated if they have no WSLP? What are they evaluated on if there is no WSLP? Hmm.
What's the other issue? When students get counted as part of the district.
Back to that webinar, there are two instances where OSPI is very clear that half a month doesn't count and yet, back to the Superintendent's memo from Friday, apparently, for charter schools, it does.
Folks, that's real money to a district.
Q. A start date is required in the written student learning plan. Can a student be claimed for apportionment under the ALE rules for an enrollment reporting period prior to the start date in the learning plan?
A. No. The WSLP must be in place before a student can be counted. The date in the plan cannot be "retroactive."
Q. A student is enrolled in ALE, Running Start, and Work Based Learning courses of study. How are these addressed in the WSLP and enrollment counting?A. The rules that govern Running Start and Work Based Learning are separate and distinct from the rules governing ALE.
Interesting that the rules say ALE is separate from Running Start because the Superintendent's memo says that these students will be funded at the Running Start rate.
One last thing - Mary Walker School District is going to have its hands full because they are likely to have more kids in this one ALE than in the entire district. There's lots they have to do but wait, I forgot. Superintendent Jacka, in his resolution to his board says he needs to hire consultants. I'm sure the Gates Foundation and the Washington State Charter Schools Association will be paying for that as I can't see how a tiny district could afford all this.
Also in his resolution he calls them "former charter schools."
Here's some of the issues for MWSD:
Q. The ALE rules state that the school district board of directors "must adopt and annually review written policies authorizing such alternative learning experiences…" Does this mean that a district must have a separate board policy for each of the ALE programs operated by the district?
A. A school district may have a single board policy in place that authorizes more than one ALE program and/or the availability of individual ALE courses to regular instructional students. However, the school district board of directors should develop separate policies authorizing each ALE program if these programs operate in distinctly different ways from each other, such as an elementary parent partnership program and a secondary online program.
Recruitment materials should include the contact information for the person(s) responsible for coordinating the ALE program’s efforts to comply with the IDEA, Section 504, and Title II.
A district, for example, may not ask a parent to revoke consent for continued special education services as a condition of admission. Moreover, an online ALE program should not use classroom size as a basis for denying admission if the online program does not have the same capacity limited as a physical bricks-and-mortar classroom
For non-online ALE programs: If the parent is seeking to enroll a student in a non-online school program, the Choice Transfer procedure may vary. It is advisable for parents to contact the ALE program in which they hope to enroll before starting the transfer process to verify that the ALE program is accepting new students and to receive instructions on how to make the transfer request.
A. No. But if the student’s WSLP includes online courses, the ALE program must ensure that the student can actually complete the courses. This may include verifying the student has personal or family access to an Internet connected computer at home or at school, or it may mean directing the student to nearby public resources such as a library. The ALE program would need to clearly identify any enrollment requirements, including access to a computer and Internet for the completion of coursework.
Lastly, if I were a real school district, I'd follow all this very carefully because if charter school districts can get this good a deal from OSPI, so should everyone else.