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iNACOL Quality Assurance Performance Metrics for Online Schools Adopted in the State of Iowa

Education Domain Blog

Authors: Dale Frost, Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz

Issues: State Policy, Create Meaningful Qualifications


In 2012, iNACOL released a ground-breaking report on outcomes-driven quality assurance for online learning. With the growth of U.S. K-12 online learning enrollments rising each year, the report outlines how policymakers and education leaders might thoughtfully approach implementing new student learning performance metrics and quality assurance for these increasingly popular online schooling environments.

In June 2015, Iowa legislators passed a budget bill SF 510 that both enabled online schools through 2018 and adopted the performance metrics for online schools in order to provide more robust quality assurance. SF 510 requires the Iowa Department of Education to consult with iNACOL.

It is commendable that Iowa legislators used this opportunity to address concerns about quality. The new legislation requires an unprecedented level of data transparency for full-time online schools. These metrics include student achievement levels, retention rates, student participation in extracurricular activities, academic growth measures (including showing progress on individualized student growth trajectories), progress metrics toward graduation, and meeting individualized student goals.

These metrics are recommended in the iNACOL report, Measuring Quality from Inputs to Outcomes: Creating Student Learning Performance Metrics and Quality Assurance for Online Schools. Specifically, iNACOL recommends that states and oversight agencies, such as charter authorizers, require online schools to report metrics in the following categories:

  • Proficiency
  • Individual student growth along a trajectory
  • Graduation rates
  • College and career readiness
  • Closing the achievement gap
  • Fidelity to a student’s academic goals

This bill is a significant step in the right direction. Collecting data on the right metrics will provide transparency to students, parents, and schools and promote high-quality online programs. Access to objective evaluation data should provide an important incentive to the online learning providers to ensure equity and excellence in their schools, and build stakeholders’ understanding of full-time online learning.

A summary is below; a more detailed version with additional legislative information is available in the members-only iNACOL Member Forums. We track policy priorities and issues related to the field’s needs as outlined annually in the iNACOL State Policy Frameworks. This report provides background information and recommendations for issues on the critical policy shifts needed to transform K-12 education.

Legislative Calendars

  • Iowa adjourned June 5, 2015.
  • Louisiana adjourned June 11, 2015.

Federal Policy Updates

  • Last week, the Department launched its 2015 Investing in Innovation (i3) Validation and Scale-Up grant competitions. These grants will fund successful innovations that support new teachers and leaders; help educators align their instruction to college- and career-ready standards; improve student learning across science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; or reform high schools by making the standards more engaging, rigorous, and relevant for students. Each Validation grant will provide up to $12 million to fund efforts with prior evidence of success. Each Scale-Up grant will provide up to $20 million to fund the expansion of efforts that have a strong track record of success. As with prior competitions, all projects focus on high-need students, particularly those in rural areas. Applicants are strongly encouraged to notify the agency of their intent to submit an application for funding by completing a web-based form. The deadline for a notice of intent is June 25. The deadline for applications is August 4.
  • The new, $2 million Skills for Success Program supports districts and their partners in implementing, evaluating, and refining tools and approaches for developing the non-cognitive skills of middle grade students in order to increase student success. Here are two videos: (1 and 2) to highlight the program. The deadline for applications is July 29. 

Bills on the Move

  • The Iowa legislature passed a bill that will extend operation of full-time online schools for three more years and another bill that will expand broadband infrastructure for schools.
  • In Nevada, a bill that would require the State Board of Education to create a more flexible, alternative model of accountability for certain schools, was signed by Governor Sandoval on June 8, 2015. 

iNACOL 2015 Blended and Online Learning Symposium

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The iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will be held November 8-11, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Registration is open. Take advantage of early bird pricing discounts, or become an iNACOL member to save even more on registration.

Already a member? Access the more detailed legislative highlights through the Membership Forum.

Not yet a member? Join iNACOL to gain access to this Membership Forum, job postings, announcements, grant opportunities, and the latest information from the field.


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