Insight School of Oregon (ISO), a proposed statewide, full-time, online Oregon public charter school. DATE: September 7, 2007

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1 DATE: September 7, 2007 TO: FROM: RE: Members, Oregon State Board of Education Lincoln County School District, an Oregon public school district Oregon Counsel for Online Learning, an Oregon nonprofit corporation Insight Schools, Inc., an Oregon-based provider of online high school education Insight School of Oregon (ISO), a proposed statewide, full-time, online Oregon public charter school PURPOSE: Lincoln County School District, Oregon Counsel for Online Learning and Insight Schools, Inc., respectfully request that the State Board of Education grant a waiver of Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) (2)(b) for the Insight School of Oregon. ORS stipulates that if a public charter school offers any online courses as part of the curriculum of the school, then 50 percent or more of the students who attend the public charter school must reside in the school district in which the public charter school is located. LOCAL CONTEXT: Lincoln County School District (LCSD) encompasses four distinct communities and serves 5,325 students in eleven District-operated schools. LCSD additionally sponsors four charter schools, all of which serve high school-aged students. The District has an unusually collaborative relationship with the four charter schools it sponsors in that it works collaboratively with the charter schools to enhance education for all students. LCSD is also in a unique position in regards to online education. Last year, 34% of the District s students took 1,473 courses online. The District s online education budget was approximately $190,000. With online learning, LCSD is able to offer students many courses that they would otherwise be unable to take. Students who must work or who have other schedule conflicts are able to take courses online without having to worry about it interfering with other components of their life. As the District started offering online courses, it found that students who had dropped out of school and home-schooled students started returning to public schools; those students received a better education than they received from other providers who used packet work or static curriculum. Another group LCSD is able to reach with online learning is the pregnant and parenting students; approximately 24 such students came back to school last year. LCSD continues to see September 7, 2007: Page 1

2 higher-than-desirable numbers of early leavers in grades seven through 12 and homeschooled students without any connection to the public school system. When LCSD first became involved with online education, staff worked to identify a conference to attend to learn how to do it properly. Unable to find a conference anywhere in the United States for users of online learning and needing greatly to learn how to do online learning in a way that would be most beneficial to students, LCSD developed and sponsored its own distance-learning conference. This annual conference is attended by both users and providers of online instruction. LCSD learned at that time that it was leading the way in the Oregon in this education modality. The District s experience with online learning has led it to believe that there is a very large population of students, not only in Lincoln County, but throughout the state of Oregon, who could significantly benefit from this type of instruction. Because of the District s collaborative and effective relationship with its charter schools and its experience with online instruction, it is well-positioned and well-equipped to oversee and facilitate a high quality, comprehensive, online high school for children in Lincoln County and throughout the state of Oregon. Given the District s characteristics, student needs, current offerings, and recent initiatives, such a school is a natural next step. Lincoln County began discussions with Insight Schools, Inc., in February 2007 to explore the possibility of establishing such a school. During the subsequent several months, the District and Insight Schools agreed to further explore the establishment of a high-quality, comprehensive, online public charter school to serve students in Lincoln County and elsewhere in Oregon. Several local leaders to serve as incorporators for the nonprofit corporation were identified; the nonprofit secured the name Oregon Counsel for Online Learning (OCOL) and filed Articles of Incorporation on May 9, OCOL and Insight Schools collectively developed a comprehensive charter application consistent with Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) for the Insight School of Oregon and submitted it to the LCSD Board. The Board held a public hearing on July 10, 2007 and on August 21, 2007, voted unanimously to approve the charter application and become the sponsor of the Insight School of Oregon. The complete charter application is attached. STATE CONTEXT: The 2005 Legislature enacted SB 1071, part of which became ORS , which stipulates that if a public charter school offers any online courses as part of the curriculum of the school, then 50 percent or more of the students who attend the public charter school must reside in the school district in which the public charter school is located. The 2007 Legislature revisited this issue, both through SB 532 and HB 2037, and the Senate and the House agreed to address this issue in the House version of the bill. The House Subcommittee on Education Innovation established a work group to address this issue. Representatives of all interested stakeholders participated in this work group. The general consensus of the work group was that the 50% residency cap was in lieu of quality criteria for online charter schools, and therefore removing the 50% September 7, 2007: Page 2

3 residency cap without stipulating quality criteria would be remiss. The work group generated amendments to HB 2037 which delegated to the State Board of Education the responsibility to review each request for a waiver of the 50% residency provision on a case-by-case basis and a list of criteria to use in determining whether to grant such a waiver. While these amendments were adopted and endorsed by the House Subcommittee on Education Innovation and House Education Committee, the bill was in Ways and Means at sine die. Therefore, the 50% residency requirement remains in place. Many charter schools in Oregon offer one or more online courses and a handful offer the majority of their educational programs online. Only one (Oregon Connections Academy) is currently not required to comply with the 50% residency requirement, which creates a monopoly for this school to serve a high number of students across the state of Oregon (until its charter expires in 2010) and provides students only one such choice. ISO will provide a second and diverse such choice in that it will only serve high school students, will offer a diploma and will provide a distinct educational program. NATIONAL CONTEXT Higher education has utilized distance learning for many years. In 1989, the University of Phoenix established the first online campus to provide group-based, faculty-led, asynchronous instruction through computer-mediated communications. Over the past 18 years, online teaching and learning has become commonplace at the post-secondary level. The nation s first online public school at the high-school level was Electronic High School of Utah. Established in 1994, this school earned (and currently possesses) accreditation through the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools. By 2002, 60 public, full-time, comprehensive online schools existed across the nation; the number has continued to increase and by 2005, 175 such public schools were operating in the U.S. Currently, public, full-time, comprehensive online schools are serving students in 25 states. Please see the attached Virtual Public Schools Myths and Realities and Best Practices in Online Learning documents for additional details regarding the profiles of online school students, how teaching and learning best occurs in online schools, academic achievement and other critical information. BASIS FOR WAIVER: The primary reason that this waiver is necessary is so that ISO can meet the needs of some of Oregon s high school-aged youth. Conservative estimates indicate that at least 30,000 young people ages are not attending school. Oregon Census data for indicates that 252,446 youth ages resided in Oregon. According to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) for this same period, statewide high school enrollment was 180,524. This leaves 71,922 unaccounted for. Assuming that half of the 18-year olds in the Census data were high school graduates, assuming that some (perhaps up to 10,000) of these youth attended private schools, and assuming that some were home-schooled (registered home-schoolers for grades K-12 state-wide for this time September 7, 2007: Page 3

4 period was 21,192, so dividing that number evenly between grades and presuming that some were not registered) still leaves at least 30,000 high school aged students out of school. Oregon AYP reports over a four-year period indicate an annual drop-out rate of approximately 30%. Please see the attached High School Drop Outs: Insight Perspective Paper which partially details the enormity of the high school drop out epidemic and its personal and societal consequences for our state and nation. The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit research group headed by Bob Wise, former Governor of West Virginia, published a report in August 2006 that included dropout estimates on a statewide basis. The report cites information from the Urban Institute, which estimated that the number of drop-outs in Oregon in 2004 was 11,768. The report further estimates the lost lifetime earnings per dropout to equal $260,000 per dropout; for those Oregon students who dropped out in 2004, this means a combined lost lifetime earning of $3,059,680,000. ISO hopes to serve 350 students during the current ( ) school year and increase enrollment annually to approximately 2,000 students in the school year. At capacity, ISO would only serve approximately 7% of Oregon s out-of-school youth identified above. Although full-time online school is not appropriate for every student, for some, ISO can be the bridge that brings them back into the public school system: Allowing students to advance at their own pace; Providing schedule flexibility to accommodate work or family care responsibilities; Enabling freedom of location, for those who have physical challenges; Providing connections in a one-to-one setting with certified instructors, for those who need more personalized attention. ISO will provide a much-needed option for high school students who find they are in need of a different high school environment, for a variety of reasons. ISO is an attractive educational alternative for students who: Are home-schooled and may want subject matter help from a certified instructor but do not want to attend the traditional setting Are out-of-school, at-risk of leaving school or not flourishing in their current school setting for one or more of the following reasons: o Don t function well in a large, impersonal classroom setting, or don t connect socially in a large school o May need more challenging coursework, or to move at a faster pace o Reach their creative peak in the evening, and find it difficult to attend school in the early morning o Are challenged with health or physical issues o Are pursuing their dreams in sports, entertainment, modeling, dancing, or other careers may not be able to attend school regularly September 7, 2007: Page 4

5 Please also see page 5 of the attached Charter School Application for additional information regarding the student needs the proposed school would address. ORS (2) allows the State Board of Education to waive any provision of Oregon s charter school law that is not listed in ORS (1). The statute that Lincoln County School District and the Oregon Counsel for Online Learning are requesting the State Board to waive is (2)(b), which is not in the list of un-waiveables. Lincoln County School District and the Oregon Counsel for Online Learning believe that this waiver request meets three of the four criteria outlined in ORS (2), which provide guidance for the determination of whether the State Board of Education might grant a waiver: 1. Promotes the development of programs by providers. This waiver is necessary in order to implement the proposed school as approved by the LCSD Board. ISO s 5-years student projection is 2,000 students, which will only address a small fraction of the needs around the state. However, serving 2,000 students will enable ISO to financially sustain the proposed high-quality, comprehensive online educational program as well as sustain effective and efficient operations. 2. Enhances the equitable access by underserved families to the public education of their choice. ISO will level the playing field for all of its students. Honors students and at-risk students, urban and rural students alike will have equitable access, and the true ability to choose to attend this school. ISO will achieve this by not only providing a computer, printer, and internet reimbursement to every ISO student, but ISO will also hire the best instructional staff from throughout the state. The benefit to ISO students, no matter what their specific life circumstance, is that they will have equal access to world-class curriculum, as well as the highest qualified Oregon-certified instructional staff. 3. Extends the equitable access to public support by all students. The alarming reality that perhaps 30,000 of Oregon s high school-aged students are not enrolled in school, and many participate in private or home-schooling, indicates that far too many of our young people currently do not benefit from public education. ISO would facilitate the return and re-engagement of some such students so that they can benefit from the educational, lifestyle and economic assets that a high-quality public education and high school diploma typically bring. September 7, 2007: Page 5

6 QUALITY CRITERIA: Although HB 2037A did not become law during the 2007 Legislature, it does include a list of quality criteria developed by the work group on this bill. Lincoln County School District and the Oregon Counsel for Online Learning believe that the proposed Insight School of Oregon meets or exceeds all of these criteria, as well as some additional criteria outlined below. Criteria outlined in HB 2037A Have performance criteria the school will use to measure the school s progress in meeting its academic performance goals during its first five years of operation; Have a proposal for directly and significantly involving parents and guardians of students enrolled in the school and the school s professional employees in the implementation of the proposed educational program; Have a proposed budget, business plan and governance plan for the operation of the school; How Insight School of Oregon will meet/exceed criteria See application pages 16-17, which outline measurable student outcomes and measurement and reporting methods for each outcome. ISO s parental involvement plan includes the following: Provide input to the Board of Directors on significant issues; Parent Advisory Counsel, a school-facilitated informal group of parents that meet virtually and/or face-toface from time to time to; give input on how ISO can be improved for all students, serve as a resource for new families considering enrolling in ISO, and a forum for reaction to future school plans; Regular meetings will be scheduled between the student, parent, and Mentor to report student progress and to provide assignments for the next learning period; Quarterly reviews with staff regarding student progress; Parent workshops for those with ELL students; Parents will be provided observer access to ISO s Learning Management System so that they can review their student s performance at any time; Parents may request student progress reports at any time; Serve as Community Coordinators (paid ISO positions) to coordinate face-to-face student educational and social events in their area, and liaison with families, organizations and media in their area; and Annual feedback via parent satisfaction surveys, which will be used within the ISO continuous improvement model. See application pages for the ISO financial plan, and Attachment #7 (to this document) for a three-year budget utilizing state codes. Please see pages for ISO governance plans. The ISO governance plan aligns with AG Opinion #8273, which stipulates that a public charter school may contract with a private, for-profit entity to operate the school as long as: 1. the contract is consistent with the terms of the charter and all applicable laws; and 2. the public charter school retains a right of control September 7, 2007: Page 6

7 Agree to operate using an interactive webbased technology platform that monitors and tracks student progress and attendance in conjunction with performing other student assessment functions; Notwithstanding ORS (7) which allows a public charter school to employ an administrator who is not licensed by TSPC agree to employ only licensed teachers who are highly qualified as described in the federal No Child Left Behind Act of Maintain student records and school records, including financial records, at a designated central office of operations; Ensure equitable access to the educational program provided by the school by ensuring that each student enrolled in the school: Has access to and use of computer and printer equipment as needed; Is offered an Internet service cost reimbursement arrangement under which the school reimburses the parent or guardian of the student, at a rate set by the school, for the costs of obtaining Internet service at the minimum connection speed required to effectively access the educational program provided over the for-profit entity and provide procedural safeguards to affected members of the public in relation to those aspects of the school s operations that constitute the governmental function of providing a public education. ISO will utilize a Student Information System (SIS) and Learning Management System (LMS) that enables attendance to be tracked while the student is engaged in activities associated with educational program of ISO. Student attendance is reviewed and monitored by ISO staff to ensure students remain engaged and on track toward the individual learning objectives that were established in their Personalized Learning Plan. Student progress and performance is maintained within the LMS and available to ISO staff, students, and parent(s) for review and monitoring. Mentors that are assigned to each student monitor performance and communicate weekly with students and/or parent(s) as required. ORS (7)(c) requires that a minimum of half the teaching and administrative to hold TSPC licenses. However, because the nature of online learning precludes the ability to observe instruction in the same way as possible in a brickand-mortar school setting, and because of the range of comfort in Oregon around the modality of online education, ISO will seek to hire all TSPC-certified instructors and will only hire TSPC-certified instructors to teach core courses. All teachers who do not posses TSPC licenses will register with TSPC. All teachers of core subjects will be Highly Qualified per the No Child Left Behind Act. See application pages for detailed information regarding teacher qualifications, professional development and other strategies for ensuring high-quality instructional staff. ISO will have an administrative office, or a central office of operations, within Lincoln County School District boundaries. Administrative staff will be based in this office. School, student and financial records will also be maintained in this office. ISO will provide each student with: A laptop with all software applications and filters installed A printer Internet reimbursement In the unlikely event that a student does not reside in an area with Internet access, all courses are on DVDs and communication between teachers and students can occur via phone and U.S. Postal Service. See application page 6. September 7, 2007: Page 7

8 by the school; OR Has access to and use of computer and printer equipment and is offered Internet service cost reimbursement. Ensure access to computer and printer equipment and the Internet service cost reimbursement by students enrolled in the school who are from families that qualify as low-income under Title I of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Provide each student enrolled in the school with the materials required to complete lessons, including: Textbooks Educational materials Conduct school-sponsored optional educational events at least six times each school year at locations selected to provide convenient access to all students enrolled in the school who want to participate; Conduct biweekly meetings between teachers and students enrolled in the school, either in person or through the use of conference calls or other technology; Provide opportunities for face-to-face meetings between teachers and students enrolled in the school at least six times each school year Be in compliance with the provisions of ORS (1)(a) to (p) and the provisions of ORS Chapter 338 that are not specifically waived by the State Board of Education. Students whose families who qualify as low-income under Title I will receive the same equipment as all other students (see above row). See above and application page 6. ISO will provide all students with all materials they need to participate in and complete their courses, including but not limited to, textbooks, e-books, dry-labs, journals, materials for Physical Education, etc. ISO will hire Community Coordinators located throughout the state to facilitate voluntary face-to-face student activities that are geographically central to students. These student activities are optional and a student s grade will not be affected by non-participation. ISO will meet with students weekly via phone or other technology to review all student progress made toward goals as established for each student on their Personal Education Plan (see Exhibit C of the charter application). ISO will annually facilitate a minimum of six face-to-face gatherings between students and teachers. Gatherings may individual or group focused and may address relevant academic, social, or community topics. Face-to-face gatherings may also be recreational in nature. ISO will comply with ORS Chapter 338. Please see application page 32 for accountability plans to monitor and ensure compliance. In addition to assuring strategies to fully comply with all of the above quality criteria, ISO is committed to: High-school aged students. Distance education, including full-time online education, is generally developmentally appropriate for high school students. ISO will attract and serve some of Oregon s un- or under-served high school students who will thrive in this modality and educational program. Most K-8 programs rely, at least in-part, on parentinstructors, and present difficulty in verifying the consistent quality of instruction and delivery of course materials. Local, certified teachers. ISO will only hire teachers who reside in Oregon. ORS (7)(c) requires that a minimum of half the teaching and administrative to hold TSPC licenses. However, because the nature of online learning precludes the ability to observe instruction in the same way as possible in a brick-and-mortar school setting, and because of the range of comfort in Oregon around the modality of online education, ISO September 7, 2007: Page 8

9 will seek to hire all TSPC-certified instructors and will only hire TSPC-certified instructors to teach core courses. All teachers who do not posses TSPC licenses will register with TSPC. All teachers of core subjects will be Highly Qualified per the No Child Left Behind Act. Low student-teacher ratio. In order to ensure high-quality instruction and ample opportunity for learning through student-teacher interaction, ISO will have a studentteacher ratio of 25:1. Fiscal Transparency. As a public charter school, ISO takes seriously its responsibility to conduct its business in a way that allows the public to access it and to demonstrate accountability with the public funds it will receive. Although no specific guidelines exist for online programs such as ISO is proposing, LCSD and OCOL will work with the State Board of Education to develop budget level transparency that addresses the concerns of all constituents. At a minimum, ISO and LCSD will comply with all Oregon public meetings records laws, and Insight Schools will disclose information regarding the expenditure of Oregon public funds and otherwise exercise as much transparency as allowable for publicly-traded companies (i.e., the Apollo Group). In accordance with ORS (1), ISO will report annually to the LCSD Board and the State Board of Education on the performance of the school and its students; the report will include the following information to enable both agencies to determine ISO s compliance with ORS Chapter 338, including, at a minimum (per page 33 of the charter application): Summary data showing student and school progress toward all goals and outcomes; A summary of major decisions and policies established by the ISO during the year; A copy of ISO health and safety policies; Data on the level of parent involvement in ISO governance (and other aspects of the School, if applicable) and summary data from an annual parent and student satisfaction survey; Data regarding the number of staff working at ISO and their qualifications, proof of required credentialing, background clearance, and tuberculosis clearance; Information demonstrating whether ISO implemented the means listed in the charter to strive to achieve a racially and ethnically balanced student population; An overview of ISO admissions practices during the year; Analyses of the effectiveness of ISO internal and external dispute mechanisms; Summary enrollment levels and attendance rates; Student conduct and discipline data, an analysis of the students progress toward meeting academic goals and objectives, summary data on the accomplishment of the school s educational program and operational goals, an outline of goals for the upcoming year along with an action plan to achieve those goals and evaluation plan to measure attainment of those goals; September 7, 2007: Page 9

10 Other information regarding the educational program and the administrative, legal and governance operations of ISO relative to compliance with the terms of the charter generally; and Any other information required by the District will also be included in the annual report. Based on Section 5 of HB 2037A, ISO will also include the following information in its annual reports: The number of students who were enrolled in the school at the end of the preceding school year; The number of students who completed the courses in which the students enrolled; and Demographic information, of students enrolled in the school. Leaders from the Lincoln County School District, Oregon Counsel for Online Learning and Insight Schools, Inc. would be happy to meet with you collectively and/or individually, and/or provide any additional information that you might wish to see. We would also like to make ourselves available, if this waiver is granted, to work with you and ODE staff to share information and support the development of future procedures to further address issues related to online learning in Oregon. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this waiver request. Attached please find the following: 1. Letter from Lincoln County School District Superintendent 2. Insight Schools Overview and Summary 3. High School Drop-Out White Paper 4. Online Learning Best Practices 5. Virtual Public Schools Myths and Realities 6. Letters of Support 7. Three-year budget 8. Charter Application (with Exhibits) September 7, 2007: Page 10

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