Monday, December 07, 2015

Dorn Turns ALE Rules/Regs on their Head for Charter Schools

There are many contradictions between what OSPI tells regular districts about Alternative Learning Experiences (ALEs) versus what is being said that will be done for charter schools and ALE programs.

(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.

A. No. The WSLP must be in place before a student can be counted. The date in the plan cannot be "retroactive."

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:

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.

When announcing the availability of an ALE program or conducting public outreach and recruitment, a public school district must act to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities, are notified of the opportunity to participate in the ALE 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.

A. The district retains responsibility for the non-resident student identically to its responsibility for resident students. This includes legal, ethical, and reporting responsibilities.

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.


Anonymous said...

Many districts in Arizona changed all or most of their schools to charter schools because they got more funding than if they were "traditional" public schools. Sounds like this is more of the same.


Watching said...

Dorns plan would create an enormous amount of work for Seattle Public Schools and other districts that have charter schools. Each district must release students. I'm confident school districts will not receive funding for administrative support.

I would fully expect the Washington State Charter Commission to assist Mary Walker School district with administrative work.

Dorn ought to be ashamed of himself.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how special education would be provided since currently it's the responsibility of the attending school district to do evaluations and the student's home district to provide services.

NB parent

Greenwoody said...

He's basically bending all the rules and assuming that by the time a court steps in, the Legislature will have passed some sort of "fix" to restore the charter schools as they had been. For shame.

Anonymous said...

The Sp Ed obligations would transfer to Mary Walker when they accept the students. They could contract back with the resident district or a contract service provider (aka the charter) to provide the services and conduct the evals, but ultimately Mary Wakker would be on the hook legally for any failures by anyone they contract with, including the resident district. That was one of the initial big problems with WAVA- they used to only accept non-Sp Ed students or require families to withdraw from Sp Ed to be accepted. Stelicoom (who hosted WAVA as an ALE at the time got reported to OSPI and OCR who disabilty discrimination and ended up having to change practice,though they continued to find ways to dwhy individual Sp Ed students. If the charters went private, the district where the charter was located would be obligated to do Child Find and conduct evaluations and the resident district of the student would be responsible for providing Sp Ed services on a party time basis, though only in the resident district - ie a Federal Way student attending a charter that became a private school in Tacoma would be evaluated by Tacoma and if eligible, would be able to get services, but only in Federal Way.

Has anyone reported the plan to the SAO? The auditors have historically been tight on ALEs because there is so much room for fiscal abuse. Since Dorn seems to have lost his mind, perhaps the SAO would step in.


Anonymous said...

I don't think Mary Walker can afford to provide SPED supports to all these Seattle kids. This will bankrupt them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

CT, sorry I left this out:

"No action will be required by resident districts that approve OSPI's facilitation of the transfers."

One more nice benefit for districts.

NB, if you hit the link for the webinar, there is more info on Sped.

SWWS, I'll send this today to the Auditor.

Watching said...

"The Sp Ed obligations would transfer to Mary Walker when they accept the students. They could contract back with the resident district or a contract service provider (aka the charter) to provide the services and conduct the evals, but ultimately Mary Walker would be on the hook legally for any failures by anyone they contract"

Regarding special ed. students, Mary Walker and charter schools...an elementary school principal within the Mary Walker school district has been approached for this job. In essence, we have a guy, located in another part of the state, being asked to oversee special education.

I can't imagine that parents of special education students, within charter schools, understand the situation.

I hope individuals within this blog advocate for special education students. Consider writing to Dorn, Inslee and legislators.

The logistics of Dorn's proposal are a nightmare and I don't see that it will work. Then again, does anyone care?

One of the legislators trying to find a charter school "fix" is Joe Fain. He just recorded a video (propaganda) about a legislative "fix" for an unjust system. He goes on about the usual propoaganda...an old law, timing of Supreme Court decision and ability for general fund to provide dollars to charter schools. As Melissa says...what will they cut to fund charter schools?

Watching said...

"No action will be required by resident districts that approve OSPI's facilitation of the transfers." This sentence really needs to be clarified.

Randy Dorn's office has not issued a press release and for good reason. IMO, there is an attempt to keep the MWSD/charter school plan quiet. Never before have we seen attempts to move entire schools into an ALE status with oversight from across the state.

We saw a piece in the Seattle Times. Not surprising, the Times piece was not investigative or critical. Disgusting.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, I watched that video - pretty fast-talking (literally.) But he left out a lot and made it sound like a "fix" is a simple math equation via a vote. It's not the simple, kids, and to make it sound so makes you sound simple.

As well, yes the Times had a story on this but it left out a lot and left a lot to be desired. It was on their digital front page a couple of hours and then went to the search vault.

Lynn said...

That Mary Walker principal is Edwina Hargrave. (Mary Walker has only one elementary school.) She is also the district's Special Education Director. She can do both those jobs because her school has about 190 students and the district has 70 or so students receiving special education services.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, that won't be true soon. Maybe that's what a consultant is for (I'm thinking they may need several, at this rate.)

Anonymous said...

FYI - there's an article about the Mary Walker story in Spokesman Review from a few days back

Washington charter schools may join Springdale school district


Watching said...

Spokane School district is a charter school authorizer, but they said NO to charter/ale proposal:

Brenda McDonald, the director and founder of Pride Prep, one of Spokane’s two charters, said there had been discussions by her charter’s board about joining Spokane Public Schools, but those talks have ended.

:There is no animosity between the district and the charter schools, she said.

“It has been a bumpy road; it really doesn’t need to be bumpier,” McDonald said.

McDonald said affiliating with the Mary Walker district wouldn’t result in a substantive change for parents or students."


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