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Data & Information


Most of Ohio’s online and blended learning activity is through its eCommunity schools. There is some district-level activity, and iLearnOhio is a state program that acts as an online resource for K-12 students (providing an online catalog of 564 online courses for high school students).

Fully online schools

Ohio has 27 eCommunity schools. Seven serve students statewide, and 22 serve students in grades K-12. A community school is similar to charter schools in other states. An eCommunity school is an Internet- or computer-based community school (similar to a charter school in other states) in which the enrolled students work primarily from their residences. Ohio eCommunity schools (also called eschools and e-schools in legislation) served enrolled 39,044 students in SY 2013-14, a 1% annual increase, and among the highest number of fully online students of any state in the country.  Online students are from nearly all of Ohio’s 614 public school districts. The largest two eSchools, among the largest in the country, are Ohio Virtual Academy High School, which served 13,147 students, and the Electronic High School of Tomorrow, which served 13,537 students in SY 2013-14. Effective in SY 2015-16, all eSchools with over 3,000 students can grow up to 15% annually, while those with fewer than 3,000 can grow up to 25% per year. Newly opened schools in SY 2013-14 are limited to 1,000 students. A July 2009 report by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools suggested that the eCommunity schools have achieved better results than comparable traditional school districts, especially when looking at year-to-year student improvement. In addition, Education Sector posted a blog series in spring 2011 analyzing e-schools in Ohio. It offers an in-depth analysis of the 27 eCommunity schools based on Adequate Yearly Progress, size, regional versus statewide student draw, student demographics, and online student mobility. It raises concerns about the accountability of eCommunity schools, especially for those that receive waivers from standard accountability measures, such as alternative schools.

State virtual school

HB153 (2011) requires that the Board of Regents create a clearinghouse of online courses based on principles including “Students may earn an unlimited number of academic credits through distance learning courses” and “Student advancement to higher coursework shall be based on a demonstration of subject area competency instead of completion of any particular number of hours of instruction.” Huntington Learning Centers of Holland launched a dedicated online course resource for K-12 students, replacing the OhioLearns! Gateway. The new site is located at the Ohio Resource Center for Mathematics, Science, and Reading, and is administered by the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University. School districts still have the final say on the amount of credit awarded. The state has appropriated $675,000 per fiscal year to support the provider and course approval processes managed through ilearnOhio.  IlearnOhio is the state-supported distance learning clearinghouse and e-learning platform funded by appropriation at $1.5 million in FY 2012. ilearnOhio reviews providers and courses before listing them in its catalog; there are 13 approved providers as of September 2013. One-time tuition waivers are available to pay for Advanced Placement® courses for public, private, or homeschooled Ohio students. Ohio is the first state to guide students to MOOCs (massive open online courses), which previously have only been used in higher education. ilearnOhio has authorized 14 MOOCs offered for free by Coursera. The course descriptions state that, “There is no academic credit for taking any Coursera online course, but completing a course offered through Coursera may qualify a student for Flex Credit.”

District programs

Three new district-based eSchools received approval to open in 2013-14: the Mosaica Online Academy of Ohio (grades K-12), Provost Academy of Ohio (grades 6-12), and Insight School of Ohio (grades 6-12).

Online learning policy history

HB364, adopted in April 2003, provided additional guidance for eCommunity school operation. HB66 (2005) imposed a moratorium on new eCommunity schools until the General Assembly adopts standards for the schools, due to a number of concerns. (The issues leading to the moratorium were reviewed in the Keeping Pace 2009.) A study by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools suggests that the eCommunity schools have achieved better results than comparable traditional school districts, but as of fall 2010 these findings have not yet translated into lifting the moratorium on new eCommunity Schools that remains in effect. HB119 (2007) established the online clearinghouse, while HB562 (2008) expanded the clearinghouse to K-20 and moved responsibility to the Ohio Board of Regents. Ohio passed HB153 in 2011, which has the following provisions:
  • Terminates the moratorium on new Internet- or computer-based community schools (e schools) on January 1, 2013, but limits the number of new e-schools that may open to five per year. If more than five e-schools wish to open the five will be selected by lottery.
  • Directs the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop operational standards for e schools for possible enactment by the General Assembly. Requires e-schools to comply with the legislative standards, if they are enacted by January 1, 2013, or iNACOL’s standards, if legislative standards are not enacted by that date. Schools must comply by July 2013.
  • Specifies that, for state funding purposes, an e-school student is considered automatically re enrolled the following school year until the student’s enrollment in the school is formally terminated or the student fails to participate in the first 105 hours of learning opportunities offered that year.
  • Repeals the requirement that e-schools spend a specified minimum amount per pupil on instruction. Requires the State Board of Education to adopt standards for determining the amount of operating expenditures for classroom instruction and for non-classroom purposes spent by an e-school (and other schools as well), by July 2012. Also requires the Department of Education to use the expenditure reporting standards and existing data to rank each district, community school, e-school, and STEM school according to percentage of operating expenditures for classroom instruction.
  • Requires the Department to denote, within the classroom expenditure rankings, districts and schools that are (1) among the lowest 20% statewide in total operating expenditures per pupil or (2) among the highest 20% statewide in academic performance index or career-technical performance measures. Also requires the Department, annually, to report each district’s eschool’s rank (among other schools) according to (1) performance index score, (2) student performance growth, (3) career-technical performance measures, (4) expenditures per pupil, (5) percentage of expenditures for classroom instruction, and (6) performance of, and opportunities for, identified gifted students
  • Allows schools to make up a maximum of three calamity days either via lessons posted online or “blizzard bags” (paper lesson plans distributed to students that correspond to online lessons). A district’s plan must be approved in writing by the teacher’s union to be implemented. (Section 3313.88)
HB555 (2012)[1]  had a significant impact on virtual education. It included the following provisions:
  • Terminated the moratorium on new Internet- or computer-based community schools (e-schools), but delayed the authorization of new e-schools until July 1, 2013. It additionally limited the number of new e-schools that might open to five per year after that date.
  • Directed the superintendent of public instruction to approve applications for new internet- or computer-based community schools from only those applicants demonstrating experience and quality based on the providers’ prior experience with online schools, previous record for student performance, and a preference for operators with previous experience in Ohio. The State Board of Education was required to adopt corresponding rules no later than July 1, 2013, and these went into effect in May 2013.
  • Repealed the requirement that e-schools spend a specified minimum amount per pupil on instruction. Required the State Board of Education to adopt standards for determining the amount of operating expenditures for classroom instruction and for non-classroom purposes spent by an e-school (and other schools as well) by December 31, 2012.
  • Instructed the Department of Education to be responsible for the oversight of sponsors (e.g. private providers), provide technical assistance to governing authorities and sponsors, conduct training sessions and distribute informational materials, and subsequently monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of sponsors in their oversight of schools.
  • Required annual reports on the effectiveness of community school academic programs, operations, legal compliance, and financial condition of all community schools providers.
SB316 (2012) defined digital and blended learning, while making explicit the ability of LEAs to create or convert traditional schools, all or in part, to blended schools. In LEAs permitting blended learning models, schools must openly declare their blended learning status (or any change to this) each year.  Internet- or computer-based eCommunity schools may not declare themselves blended schools.  State Code 3302.4 (2012) further clarified that blended schools must:
  • Have enrollment caps of 125 students per one teacher.
  • Provide students with access to necessary digital tools.
  • Allow all students to earn credits or advance grade levels through competency-based learning models (providing exemption from seat time).
  • Provide for teacher licensing, training, equipment, library facilities, reporting mechanisms, grade promotion criteria, requirements for graduation, and such other factors as the board finds necessary.
HB59 (2013) provides $675,000 to ilearnOhio for FY 2014 to assess the alignment of online courses with state standards. It also establishes an Electronic Textbook Pilot Project to provide an additional $675,000 in grants to public and chartered nonpublic schools for purchase of digital texts and electronic educational content through the existing ilearnOhio platform (as well as related professional development and training resources). Up to $24,150 in each fiscal year will be distributed on a grant basis to eligible school districts (the 490 districts with lowest wealth per pupil) to establish distance learning.

Blended learning

Connections Education opened three Nexus schools in SY 2012-13, offering a fully blended learning experience to students in grades 9-12 in Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo. These are among 59 blended programs reported to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

last updated October 20, 2014

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