Concerns Prompt New Law Revising How Virtual Schools Track Attendance

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Virtual charter schools will have to start tracking student attendance in accordance with a new law signed Friday by Gov. Mary Fallin.

The proposal arose after Oklahoma Watch revealed in September that all five of Oklahoma’s virtual charter schools reported between 98 and 100 percent attendance last year. Two reported 100 percent. State education officials expressed concerns.

The schools, which enroll more than 13,000 students, were able to report perfect attendance because state statute only required virtual students to be enrolled to be considered “in attendance.”

Under the new law, the governing board of each virtual charter school will be required to adopt an attendance policy by July 1, 2018. The legislation was proposed by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa.

The law provides schools three ways to count whether a student is “in attendance” each quarter: by completing instructional activities on at least 90 percent of the days; is “on pace” to complete the course on time, as defined by the school’s board; or by completing at least 40 instructional activities in a quarter.

Instructional activities could be anything from logging into the online system to taking a test to texting or emailing a teacher.

The final version of the bill was amended from the original proposal, which would have required students to log on to their program at least five days in a seven-day week.

Virtual schools will also be required to notify a parent or guardian when a student is approaching truancy under the attendance guidelines.