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Data & Information


Louisiana has two fully online charter schools, a number of district programs, and a statewide Supplemental Course Academy (formerly its Course Choice program). Blended schools are growing in popularity in New Orleans, which from SY 2014-15 is home to the country’s first school district that consists primarily of charter schools (Recovery School District).From 2000 through 2013, Louisiana had a state virtual school, Louisiana Virtual School (LVS). In 2012, Act 2 (HB976) enacted sweeping reforms to public K-12 education, including initial implementation of the Course Choice program. In 2012 Act 2 (HB976) introduced the Course Choice program, enacting sweeping reforms to public K-12 education. Under Course Choice, all students are permitted to select their own online and hybrid courses from 45 authorized private and out-of-district providers, including vendors such as Apex, Edgenuity, K12 Inc., and Princeton Review, and also Louisiana universities, community colleges, and school districts.153 Early challenges to the program’s legality, and particularly of its funding model, were raised, and following a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling mid-2013 that per-pupil allocation funds could not be diverted outside of public schools, funding shifted and is based on a state appropriation and grant funding (instead of tapping into the public education funding formula). As of September 2013, funding has been secured for at least 3,500 course enrollments for SY 2013-14, but future funding is uncertain.

Fully online schools

Louisiana has two fully online charter schools that opened fall 2011, authorized by the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE): the Louisiana Connections Academy (LACA) and Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (LAVCA). LACA enrollment is capped at 1,200 students. For SY 2013-14, LACA enrolled 350 students in grades K-5, 385 students in grades 6-8, and 465 students in grades 9-12, the same distribution as in SY 2012-13.1 LAVCA, a K12 Inc. school, is available to Louisiana students in grades K-12; in SY 2012-13 there were 1,362 enrolled students, reflecting an annual increase of 9%.

State virtual school

The Louisiana Virtual School (LVS) opened in fall 2000 and ran through SY 2012-13 as a supplemental program for grades 6-12. As of September 2013 it no longer is offering courses, and students are guided to choose from authorized providers in the Course Choice catalog. In SY 2012-13, students from 224 schools in 109 of 132 total districts, diocesan systems, and independent charter and nonpublic schools participated in LVS; there were 3,447 students in 3,937 seats (a mix of block, one-semester, and full-year course enrollments), equivalent to 6,414 one-semester enrollments. Enrollment decreased by 28% from SY 2011-12 due to reduced state funding.

In 2010-11, students from 107 (out of about 275) districts, diocesan systems, and independent charter and nonpublic schools participated with LVS. In 2010-11, there were 4,639 students in 5,659 course seats (a mix of block, one-semester, and full-year course enrollments), accounting for 8,578 one-semester enrollments. This is a 20% drop from 5,789 students in 7,030 course seats in 2009-10. A notable element of LVS is the Algebra I Online Project, which provides students with a certified Algebra I instructor and a standards-based curriculum delivered through a web-based course. It also provided the mathematics teacher with face-to-face and online professional development opportunities to assist with facilitation of in-class learning activities that support teacher efforts toward mathematics certification.

District programs

District programs opened in Vermilion, St. Mary, St. Martin, Lafourche, and Rapides parishes in 2012, and in St. Tammany in 2013, providing both fully online and supplemental options to students. Typically, in-district students attend such schools for little or no tuition, and out-of-district students can enroll for tuition if there is space. Bossier, Caddo, and St. James parishes participate in Course Choice as providers.

Online learning policy history

Act 2 (HB976, 2012) expanded options for students through three separate components:

  • Course Choice provides Louisiana students with access to nearly 1,000 supplemental courses. Approved course providers offer core academic, Advanced Placement®, and career and technical education (CTE) courses, as well as test preparation courses and college credit opportunities.
  • Charter school expansion: Act 2 amended the application process for charter schools and provided for a new type of BESE-certified chartering authority, “local charter authorizers,” which may be a state agency, a nonprofit corporation, a Louisiana public postsecondary education institution, or a nonprofit corporation established by the governing authority of a parish or municipality.
  • Recovery School District (RSD): The law allowed parents of students attending chronically failing schools to vote to have schools placed in the state-run RSD.

Charter schools in Louisiana may be authorized by local school districts or by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), but a charter applicant must apply to a local district and be rejected before applying to BESE. Historically, online charter applicants have sought authorization from BESE. BESE formed a Virtual Education Study Group in fall 2009 to study the unique needs of virtual schools and the students attending them, as well as any policy revisions required to ensure needs are met. Though no formal recommendations were issued, feedback from the group has influenced recent policy changes.

In June 2009, Louisiana lifted its 70-school cap on charter schools with the passage of HB519, enacted to improve the state’s competitiveness for federal Race to the Top funds. In the 2010-11 school year there were 90 charter schools operational statewide, up from 65 in 2008-09. An additional 11 are expected to open for 2011-12, including two online charter schools approved at the December 2010 BESE meeting.

The Department of Education published State Standards for Distance Education that cover online learning and other types of distance education. The standards do not apply to virtual charters. Further details can be found in Keeping Pace 2010.


District and charter programs are funded under the Minimum Foundation Program, a formula adopted annually by BESE. Under the Course Choice program, students from public schools rated “C,” “D,” or “F” under the Louisiana School and District Accountability System are fully funded through a state grant; students from public schools rated “A” or “B” whose schools do not offer the desired course are also funded. Fifty percent of course costs are paid to the provider upon student enrollment and 50% paid upon timely completion (though providers may still receive 40% if a student eventually completes and receives credit for the course).

The state grant also funds a Counselor Assistance Center to support parents, students, school counselors, and course providers implementing the Course Choice program.

Louisiana Virtual School received funding from a variety of state, federal, and foundation sources. Prior to the 2010-11 school year, no tuition was charged other than tuition fees assessed by university partners for dual enrollment. Beginning with the fall 2010 semester, LVS began collecting $150 per course enrollment from the student’s district, school, or LEA. LVS was primarily a BESE 8(g)-funded program. It received an allocation of $2.27 million for 2011-12, a small reduction from $2.37 million in 2010-11 and a significant drop from $2.7 million in 2009-10. In addition to state allocations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $250,000 to the DOE and Algebra I Online project. The total budget from state allocations and grant funding for 2011-12 is stable at roughly $2.9 million, though that was a reduction of about $1.5 million compared to 2009-10. Virtual charters are considered Type 2, chartered through the BESE. As a result, they receive Minimum Foundation Program funding at 90% of the state and local per-pupil amount of the district in which the student resides, as calculated per charter school law.

Quality assurance, teaching, and curriculum

In 2013 the Department of Education published updated state standards for distance education in Bulletin 741 (Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators); some sections are specific to Course Choice. Per Bulletin 132 (Louisiana Course Choice Program),159 BESE authorizes the operation and eligibility of providers to participate in Course Choice for three years, and will monitor and evaluate each by student achievement metrics, e.g. success on exams, logical course pathways, and proven assessment methods for all courses. Providers must follow the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) National Standards for Quality Online Courses, National Standards for Quality Online Teaching, and National Standards for Quality Online Programs.

last updated October 15, 2014

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