Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday vetoed a bill that would have enactedsweeping changes to the state’s online-education system. The legislation would have made it easier for Arizona junior- andhigh-school students to take online courses, which likely wouldhave pushed further growth in the system. The bill also would haveboosted accountability by creating a master list of approvedcourses and a state ranking and evaluation of each course.
In addition, Senate Bill 1259 would have required students to takefinal exams in online classes in the presence of another person tohelp prevent cheating. In a letter accompanying her veto, Brewer said she was concernedabout the appropriateness of the state “or an entity on behalf ofthe state approving online courses or curriculum.” She also cited a provision that would have paid online schools morestate funding per student if the student mastered a course. “Istrongly support moving toward funding outcomes; however, ADE (theArizona Department of Education) may not be able to implement thesystems properly, at least as the bill is drafted.” Brewer added that she believes online learning will become morecommon, and she looks forward to working with the bill’s sponsor toimprove high school students’ access to quality online learning. Sen.
Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, who sponsored the legislation, wastraveling on Monday and unavailable for comment, his office said.In a previous interview, Crandall said the legislation would dothree things: provide students with more access to online courses,set a quality bar, and establish an evaluation process for thequality and effectiveness. “Those are three things that really make a difference,” saidCrandall, who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Some educators said that while the legislation provided somesignificant regulatory changes, it also had some big holes,including weak test-proctoring requirements and an exemption forschools that only enroll full-time students. “I would have liked to have seen it go further,” said JustinBathon, an education professor at the University of Kentucky whoreviewed the legislation at the request of The Arizona Republic. Attempts to change state law come at a time when online educationin K-12 is spreading across the country. Girls Ballet Flats Shoes
The number of students inArizona online schools has nearly tripled over six years, to nearly37,000 in the school year 2010-11, the latest year for which datais available. As enrollment grows, so have concerns that thequality of online classes is poor. In December, The Republic published a six-part investigative series on online education. Theseries detailed how Arizona’s online K-12 programs have relativelylax oversight, limited disclosure of key information and few or norequirements for how schools monitor their tests or train theirteachers. China Womens Leather Flat Shoes
The risks of cheating in the largest online schools aresignificant, and questions about quality and lack of rigor surroundthe system. The legislation would have required school districts to allowstudents in grades seven through 12 to take up to two onlinecourses per year from a “master list” of online courses approved bythe state. The courses would have been for core academic or collegecredit. Right now, districts set their own policies on the numberand types of online courses they will accept. Parents also would have had access to more information about thequality of online courses. China Womens Winter Snow Boots
The legislation charged the Arizona State Board of Education withdeveloping a ranking and evaluation system for online courses basedon several quality factors. The results for each course would havebeen published on the Arizona Department of Education’s website.The state board also would have been required to develop a processfor removing low-ranked courses from the master list. Under the bill, online schools that are already part of the stateprogram would have automatically had their courses approved to themaster list but would have had to submit their courses for approvalbeginning in 2019. Online providers that are not part of the state program would havebeen able present online courses for evaluation to the state board.This could include school districts, non-profits and for-profitcompanies, among others.
The bill also would have allowed theseonline programs to earn more state money if students complete thecourse and demonstrate mastery on state-approved tests. The legislation stopped short of applying to all online programs.Online schools that serve only full-time students would have beenexempt. Elective courses also weren’t covered by the bill, at leastinitially. Students who take online courses also would have faced a littlemore scrutiny when they took key exams under the legislation.
Thebill required a non-family member to be in the room while thestudent is taking midterms and finals. The state now only requiresthat statewide assessments, such as the Arizona’s Instrument toMeasure Standards test, be supervised by the school. Some district online programs currently have even stricterrequirements for proctoring exams. They make students take theirfinal exams in person in the presence of school personnel. But someof the state’s largest online schools do not require in-personsupervising of final exams.
Nor do they require someone to bepresent in the room when students take finals. Reach the reporter at 602-444-8072 or anne.ryman@ arizonarepublic.com .