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Aurora Institute

Maine’s Missed Opportunity to Address Quality

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Dale Frost, Maria Worthen

Issue(s): State Policy, Create Enabling Conditions for Competency-Based Education


May 23 – May 29, 2015
By Maria Worthen and Dale Frost

iNACOL’s mission is to ensure all students have access to a world-class education and quality blended and online learning opportunities that prepare them for a lifetime of success. High-quality, full-time online instruction can be the best modality for some students who require a different learning environment, schedule flexibility, or who are medically fragile. This is why iNACOL advocates for students’ equitable access to high-quality, full-time online instruction.

Maine LD 696 would prohibit the Maine Charter School Commission from authorizing any new virtual public charter school until the legislature enacts legislation that expressly authorizes the operation of virtual public charter schools in the state. This bill would effectively enact a moratorium on these schools, limiting access and equity for students who would benefit from full-time online education.

The measure has stirred much legislative debate within Maine. On May 21, the Maine House passed the bill, amending it to focus on full-time online education and providing funds for the State Charter School Commission to develop a model for virtual public charter schools that “addresses the academic and developmental needs of students in the state.”

On May 26, the Maine Senate passed a motion against the bill, and on May 28, acting against the House’s motion, placed the bill in Legislative Files, essentially killing the bill. The fate of Maine LD 696 seems clear. Even in the unlikely event the Senate takes the bill back up and passes it, Governor LePage will likely veto it as he vetoed a similar bill last year.

Maine’s legislative debate around full-time online learning misses an important opportunity to focus on quality. Like any other learning modality, online learning programs’ quality can vary. Rather than a moratorium, the Maine legislature should consider rigorous quality assurance policies that require providers to align programs, teaching, and courses to nationally recognized quality standards and that create an effective, outcomes-based, student-centered accountability system. Enacting an inputs-to-outcomes quality assurance policy will ensure students’ equitable access to multiple, high-quality pathways of learning.

The iNACOL policy brief, Measuring Quality from Inputs to Outcomes: Creating Student Learning Performance Metrics and Quality Assurance for Online Schools, is a helpful guide for state policymakers wishing to implement rigorous outcomes-based accountability for 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.

State Policy Highlights

  • iNACOL is currently tracking 97 bills in 32 states.

Legislative Calendars

  • Oklahoma will adjourn May 29, 2015.
  • Missouri will adjourn May 30, 2015.
  • Kansas is expected to adjourn by the end of May, but it must first address a large budget deficit that may prolong the session.
  • Illinois is scheduled to go into Perfunctory Session on May 31. Illinois is technically in session year round, but no further action may be taken with respect to a legislative measure during a Perfunctory Session, and legislators are not required to attend a Perfunctory Session.

Bills on the Move

  • A California bill, which would provide blended charter schools with increased flexibility to offer additional “anytime, anywhere” learning, was amended and passed committee on May 28, 2015.
  • A bill in Illinois that creates a Virtual Education Review Committee has been placed on the House floor calendar.
  • A bill that would place a moratorium on the creation of full-time online charter schools in Maine passed the House but failed in the Senate.
  • The governor of Maryland signed a bill that promotes good governance of student data privacy and security on May 12, 2015.
  • In Nevada, a bill that would require the State Board of Education to create a more flexible, alternative model of accountability for certain schools passed the Senate Finance Committee on May 22, 2015.

iNACOL 2015 Blended and Online Learning Symposium

The iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will be held November 8-11, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Registration is currently open with early bird discounts available for a limited time.

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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