Posted on Apr 16, 2013
Assumptions are flying, people are questioning: we wanted to know. So, we asked.
Of the 50 states contacted, 31 states responded. Of these, 11 states reported that they collect some data on students with disabilities who receive education in a fully online school in their state (California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington). Four of these states also reported that they collect information about students with disabilities who participate in supplemental courses online (California, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia). No states reported having the ability to collect data on students with disabilities who participate in a blended learning environment.
These surprising results underscore the need for state officials and researchers alike to document and measure enrollment, performance, and outcomes for students with disabilities–and students in general–in online environments. Such data is invaluable in planning programs for students with disabilities and determining if and how special education services are being provided. COLSD will continue to gather data about online learning through initiatives like its Washington state and Lawrence, Kansas school district case studies. For more information go to www.centerononlinelearning.org.
More information about how we conducted this research:
Appropriate State Department of Education staff from 50 states were identified and contacted to find out what data each state collects, or could easily gain access to, regarding students with disabilities who participate in online learning in each of three distinct areas (fully online schools, supplemental online courses, or blended learning environments). Names and contact information for technology directors, data managers, or another knowledgeable staff member were discovered through state special education directors’ suggestions or online searches. The state staff were contacted via email or telephone to schedule a convenient time for them to discuss what data their state is collecting and where the data could be accessed. All contacts were given the option to complete the survey themselves and email it back when completed. If the original contact did not believe he or she was the correct person to provide this information, that person was asked to forward the request to an individual in their state who they believed was more suited to answer our questions. All state contacts were contacted a maximum of three times. The survey asked whether states were collecting data on students with disabilities in fully online settings, supplemental courses, and/or blended learning environments. If states did collect this data, they were asked if they collected specific pieces of data for these students, such as information on their disability, race, gender, type of school they attended, language status, and length of time in attendance.