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Enrollment, Persistence, Progress, Achievement… Oh My!

Posted on Jan 27, 2015

Here’s how you do it – enroll in an online program, stay with it and you will progress nicely and even make some great achievement – right?

Well, maybe not! It’s a little like the “Wizard of Oz” in that we’re following this “yellow brick road” – but do we know where we’re going?  Dorothy had some problems along the way and states are having some problems too. But they see some promise on the horizon too.

On November 18th and 19th, 2014, COLSD held a forum with state department of education staff to discuss online learning and students with disabilities – We wanted to know what they find important about several topics regarding online learning and students with disabilities.

This is the first in a series of eight blogs about what we learned from them. 

So states, what’s working well and what’s not going so well with enrollment, persistence, progress, and achievement? In general, states said that:

  • They have no uniform way to monitor and address enrollment, progress, and achievement issues for online settings.
  • Very few, if any school districts have methods for collecting this information, let alone using it to make improvements in their programs.
  • Many offices across the state have online learning responsibilities. Some responsibilities overlap. This overlap makes communication and organization cumbersome at best.
  • Lack of organization and communication about implementation and evaluation of online programs causes lots of problems in providing good services to districts and students.
  • Lack of knowledge sharing about best practices leads to pockets of good practice and pockets of not-so-good practice.
  • Having accurate communications and understandings with parents, vendors, and school districts is a great concern.

State staff worry that:

  • Parents aren’t always aware of the schools’ responsibilities and their own roles in online learning.
  • Districts and vendors don’t always understand and follow guidelines for online learning and students with disabilities.



Obviously worries abound! Still, some state staff see online learning for students with disabilities moving in a good direction. For example some states believe that:

  • Online testing will help make online learning settings accessible for all students, not just students with disabilities.
  • They see an evolution toward instructional technology following the student from school to school.
  • Some states need a commission to approve more virtual charter schools or otherwise support online learning implementation.

The top challenges as state staff see them:

  • a lack of structure, including funding mechanisms and enrollment procedures and
  • the lack of clarity regarding terminology such as “blended learning” and “parent coach”.

These are just a few challenges and directions state staff see in the area of online learning for students with disabilities.

What challenges and directions do you see as a parent, teacher, district administrator, state administrator, vendor, or other interested person?

We (and all of our readers) want to hear from you!

Stay tuned for our next installment from state staff – parent involvement.

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