Section 6i: Purchasing or contracting for experiences and services

This is an archived version of the rules and guidance from the 2013-14 school year. Current rules and guidance can be found here.

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Rule Text

(i) School districts are prohibited from purchasing or contracting for instructional or cocurricular experiences and services that are included in an alternative learning experience written student learning plan including, but not limited to, lessons, trips, and other activities, unless substantially similar experiences or services are also made available to students enrolled in the district's regular instructional program. This prohibition extends to a district's contracted providers of alternative learning experience programs, and each district shall be responsible for monitoring the compliance of its contracted providers. Nothing herein shall

(i) prohibit school districts from contracting with school district employees to provide services or experiences to students, or

(ii) prohibit school districts from contracting with online providers approved by the office of superintendent of public instruction pursuant to chapter 28A.250 RCW; or

(iii) require school districts that contract with school district employees to provide services or experiences to students, or with online providers approved by the office of superintendent of public instruction pursuant to chapter 28A.250 RCW, to provide substantially similar experiences and services under this subsection.

Comments

The ALE rule prohibits school districts from purchasing or contracting for instructional or co-curricular experiences and services that are included in an alternative learning experience written student learning plan including, but not limited to, lessons, trips, and other activities, unless substantially similar experiences or services are also made available to students enrolled in the district’s regular instructional program. This does not apply to contracted or purchased online courses from OSPI-approved online providers, nor does it require districts to provide specific services.

Note: This section was revised prior to the 2013-14 school year. See the revisions.

Common Questions

(See also comments and questions under subsection 3(k))

Q. What is a "substantially similar experience or service?"

A. As defined in the rule, "substantially similar experiences and services" means that for each purchased or contracted instructional or co-curricular course; lesson; trip; or other experience, service, or activity identified on an alternative learning experience written student learning plan, there is an identical or similar experience, service, or activity made available to students enrolled in the district’s regular instructional program:

  1. At a similar grade level;
  2. At a similar level of frequency, intensity, and duration including, but not limited to, consideration of individual versus group instruction;
  3. At a similar level of costs to the student with regard to any related club, group, or association memberships; admission, enrollment, registration, rental or other participation fees; or any other expense associated with the experience or service;
  4. In accordance with district-adopted content standards or state-defined grade level standards; and
  5. That is supervised, monitored, assess, evaluated, and documented by a certificated teacher.

Last updated: 8/22/2011

Q. How do I apply this prohibition to my program?

A. For any course identified in the WSLP that includes lessons, trips, services or other experiences or activities that are purchased or contracted for by the district, a district must offer substantially similar experiences or activities to students in the regular instructional program, according to the criteria included in the definition.

Last updated: 8/22/2011

Q. Will OSPI endorse or pre-approve our district’s substantially similar activities?

A. No. Each district is responsible for making all determinations that substantially similar activities or experiences are in fact made available to students in the regular instructional program. In other words, neither OSPI nor any other non-district entity will be in a pre-approval role for such determinations. Districts should make their own determinations recognizing that their decisions will be subject to state audit, and that each purchased or contracted experience, along with the substantially similar experience made available to students in the regular instructional program, must be reported annually to OSPI. This implies that districts should establish clear documentation on each determination made.

Last updated: 8/22/2011

Q. What kinds of experiences, services, or activities are included in this prohibition?

A. With the exception of courses purchased or provided under contract from an OSPI-approved online course or program provider (this includes all the courses listed on OSPI’s Digital Learning Department online course catalog), any course identified in the WSLP that is purchased from or provided under contract with a third party is subject to the prohibition. Also, any purchased or contracted experience or service that is part of a course identified in the WSLP is subject to the prohibition.

Last updated: 8/22/2011

Q. What are some examples of purchased or contracted services or activities subject to this prohibition?

A. Private classes or lessons for music (instrumental or voice), dance, painting, photography or other arts-related content; private classes or lessons for skiing, martial arts, tennis, golf or other physical education or fitness-related content; paid gym memberships; dues, fees, or other costs for recreational or competitive sports leagues or teams; private tutoring; private personal athletic training; traffic safety education courses; other privately-provided specialty-content courses such as astronomy, robotics, needlecraft; membership dues or admission fees for museums, concerts, ball games, recreation facilities, etc.; and costs associated with field trips and other off-site learning events or experiences. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but rather an illustrative list.

Last updated: 8/22/2011

Q. The definition includes "…at a similar grade-level." What if the substantially similar activity is available to all students within a grade grouping, such as middle school, rather than at a specific grade level?

A. This would meet the requirement that it be "…at a similar grade-level" and therefore be allowable so long as students within the grade grouping actually have access to the substantially similar activity. For example, if the similar activity in the regular instructional program is a high school PE course in which only juniors and seniors can enroll, while in the ALE program only students in elementary grades can enroll in the course, this would not meet the substantially similar criteria.

Last updated: 8/22/2011

Q. So how do I apply the substantially similar prohibition?

A. This checklist provides guiding questions to determine if a district’s offers meet the substantially similar requirements.

Last updated: 8/22/2011

Q. What are some examples of experiences or activities that would meet the substantially similar criteria?

A. The following are a few illustrative examples:

  • In some situations, a typical music course in a regular instructional program could be considered substantially similar to district-purchased private group music lessons as part of a music course on a WSLP, but not to district-purchased private individual music lessons as part of that music course.
  • Paying for ALE student enrollment in Traffic Safety Education (TSE) as an elective course, while students in the regular education program do not have access to school-based TSE or must pay out of pocket for commercial TSE would in most cases NOT meet the substantially similar exception to the purchasing or contracting prohibition.
  • A typical middle school PE course in a regular instructional program would not be considered substantially similar to a middle school PE course in an ALE program that includes paid membership to a private athletic club.
  • Paying for ALE student enrollment in private professional math tutoring, while students in the regular education program have access only to school-based peer math tutors or must pay out of pocket for the same private professional tutoring would in most cases NOT meet the substantially similar exception to the purchasing or contracting prohibition.

Last updated: 8/22/2011

Relevant Forms or Samples

Note: These sample forms were developed by a working group that included representation from WALA, the State Auditor's Office, OSPI, and several ALE programs. They are intended to be used as samples, and use of the sample forms provided is not required.