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Louisiana Students Gain Online Options

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A 2012 bill created Louisiana Course Choice and expanded online options. Louisiana already had a virtual school with more than 6,000 enrollments but like Kentucky and Utah, saw multiple provider landscape as a more affordable way to boost access and quality.

In May the fractional portable funding system for Course Choice was deemed unconstitutional. State superintendent John White found $2 million in funding to keep the program alive and pay for 2000 enrollments. That quickly filled up and now there are more than a thousand students on the waitlist (an unfortunate constraint on a scalable capacity).

Louisiana grades their schools based on results. Students at A and B schools get access to online courses not taught at their school. Other students gain full access to approved online catalog of over 900 courses from 38 providers including national organizations, school districts and teacherpreneurs. The course materials are used in many ways--Course Choice provides online, hybrid, and face to face courses.

Agilix built the Louisiana Course Choice platform that works like a cross between Kayak and Ticketmaster--students can find the best course for them and enroll online. Five full time counselors help make sound choices. In Utah, part time course providers receive about $750 per course. In Louisiana, they range from $250 to $1200.

Online options. " Course choice" refers to state-approved programs that allow part-time access to courses--most frequently by high school students--providing expanded access to advanced, specialized and remedial courses.

Districts in most states have latitude for accepting credits from multiple sources from but the financial disincentive of paying outside providers typically limits student options. In contrast, access to online courses on part time basis has been available in Florida for 16 years; last year about 150,000 students accessed 120 courses.

When states authorize multiple providers and provide fractional and portable funding, students make good use of the options. In addition to Florida and Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Utah, and Virginia have course choice program in place and several more are considering legislation. All choice course states require providers in the course choice program to be aligned to their respective state's content and curriculum standards; most use the iNACOL standards as a mark of course and course provider quality; and most states look for providers to have experience and capacity.

Beyond expanded options within individual states, reciprocity agreements could create national access to Advanced Placement, dual enrollment, STEM, CTE, foreign language courses and more. Educators enjoy reciprocal certification in many states, there's no reason our students shouldn't enjoy similar benefits.

Tom is a director at iNACOL.

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