Section 3a: Alternative learning experience

Rule Text

(3) Definitions: For the purposes of this section the following definitions apply:

(a)(i) "Alternative learning experience" means a course, or for grades kindergarten through eight, grade-level course work, that is a delivery method for the program of basic education and is:

(A) Provided in whole or in part independently from a regular classroom setting or schedule, but may include some components of direct instruction;

(B) Supervised, monitored, assessed, evaluated, and documented by a certificated teacher employed by the school district or under contract as permitted by applicable rules; and

(C) Provided in accordance with a written student learning plan that is implemented pursuant to the school district's policy and this chapter.

(ii) The categories of alternative learning experience courses are:

(A) "Online course" means an alternative learning experience course that has the same meaning as provided in RCW RCW 28A.250.010;

(B) "Remote course" means an alternative learning experience course or course work that is not an online course where the student has in-person instructional contact time for less than twenty percent of the total weekly time for the course.

(C) "Site-based course" means an alternative learning experience course or course work that is not an online course where the student has in-person instructional contact time for at least twenty percent of the total weekly time for the course.

Comments

This subsection defines ALE. The most important distinction between ALE and other state-funded education is that with ALE the learning occurs "in whole or in part independent from the regular classroom setting or schedule."

ALE is defined in terms of a "course or, for grades kindergarten through eight, grade-level coursework, that is a delivery method for the program of basic education." A course or coursework typically has, among other things, a defined subject matter; a curriculum or other organized materials that functions as the learning "roadmap" for the teacher and the student; a set of instructional lectures, lessons, activities, or experiences intended to impart the curriculum; a defined set of learning objectives or outcomes; and a specified method for determining if these objectives or outcomes have been met.

The term “grade-level course work” refers to ALEs that are not structured into subject-specific courses, but instead are delivered as a single course that encompasses all the material a student is expected to learn in a given year. For example, a single ALE course that included all of a student’s third grade learning would be considered grade-level course work. The term is not intended to include experiences that are smaller in scope than a typical course.

Note that changes in the ALE statute in 2013 (RCW 28A.150.325) shifted the definition of ALE program types (online, parent partnership and contract-based) to course types (online, site-based, and remote). This provides flexibility and clarity for ALE programs as schools offer students various types of ALE courses and are not limited by a program-level definition. A student in a site-based course has in-person instructional contact for at least 20% of the total weekly time they are engaged in ALE learning activities. A student in a remote course has in-person instructional contact less than 20% of the total weekly time.

Example: An ALE student taking a course (five hours per week and not online) and spending one hour or more per week with a certificated teacher for the purposes of instruction for the course would be considered as taking a site-based course. Likewise, if that same student spends less than one hour per week with in-person instructional contact, the course is considered remote.

Common Questions

Q. What are alternative learning experiences?

A. An alternative learning experience (ALE) is a course or, for grades kindergarten through eight, grade-level coursework, for public school students that are primarily characterized by learning activities that occur away from the regular public school classroom setting. The specific requirements and expectations of these away-from-school learning activities are detailed in a written student learning plan (WSLP) developed and supervised by a certificated public school teacher. In order to receive state basic education funding for ALE, a school district must comply with the ALE funding requirements detailed in WAC 392-121-182.

Last updated: 8/19/2013

Q. What does “grade-level course work” mean?

A. The term “grade-level course work” refers to ALEs that are not structured into subject-specific courses, but instead are delivered as a single course that encompasses all the material a student is expected to learn in a given year. For example, a single ALE course that included all of a student’s third grade learning would be considered grade-level coursework. The term is not intended to include experiences that are smaller in scope than a typical course.

Last updated: 8/19/2013

Q. What are the regulatory requirements (rules) for alternative learning experiences?

A. Washington state law, RCW 28A.150.325, defines the general requirements for ALE. This law delegates authority to OSPI to develop administrative rules to implement ALE requirements. These requirements are spelled out in WAC 392-121-182. These rules have been in existence for many years, and were most recently amended in August 2013. The ALE rules are school finance rules, allowing school districts to establish programs and claim basic education funding for student learning experiences that occur primarily away from school. This is in contrast to the more commonly used "seat time" requirements for basic education funding, where school districts claim basic funding only for enrolled students who are expected to actually attend school each day for a specified number of hours. In addition to the requirements of WAC 392-121-182, ALE programs must comply with all other existing rules and laws governing public education in Washington state.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. How is ALE different from home-based instruction?

A. Although ALE may be similar to home-based instruction in that it is characterized by learning that occurs away from school, it is not home-based instruction. ALE is a public school learning experience which is planned, developed, and supervised by a public school teacher. Home-based instruction is subject to specific state laws (RCW 28A.200 and RCW 28A.225.010) and planning and supervision falls under the authority of the parent, not the school district. Home-based students may enroll part-time in public school classes and programs, including ALE.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. Work-based learning (WBL) is another type of learning program that occurs away from the regular classroom setting. How is work-based learning different from ALE?

A. Separate laws and rules govern work based learning. There are substantial differences between work based learning and ALE in how student FTE is calculated, and in how credit is issued. ALE programs that provide for work-based learning should be clear about these distinctions and the additional requirements of work-based learning pursuant to WAC 392-410-315. Programs should appropriately apply the work-based learning rules (WAC 392-121-124) and not the ALE rules when claiming enrollment for work-based learning programs. More information on WBL can be found on the OSPI Work-based Learning page.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. What is a part-time student?

A. A part-time student is a student who is enrolled in the public school for any amount of time less than a 1.0 FTE, and who is also receiving home-based instruction, or who is also enrolled in an approved private school.

Note that students can split enrollment between a regular instructional program and an ALE program. Generally speaking, these students are not considered to be “part-time” students because their enrollment totals 1.0 FTE between the two programs.

This does not include students enrolled less than full time in school with the agreement of school district officials. Examples of this type of partial enrollment:

  • A high-school senior taking only one or two classes needed to graduate;
  • A teen parent taking a limited course load because of his or her parenting responsibilities;
  • A student with a chronic illness that limits his or her ability to take a full course load.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. Can a district determine that an ALE program is not open to part-time enrollment? (WAC 392-121-182(1)(a))

A. If the program is operating under WAC 392-121-182, the answer is no. A district may not arbitrarily determine an alternative learning experience program is not open to part-time enrollment. The relevant law is RCW 28A.150.350. In summary, this law requires school districts to allow part-time enrollment "in the same manner as" for other public school students. Thus, ALE programs should not discriminate between full-time and part-time status when enrolling students in the program. Further, programs that may need to limit student enrollment based on budgetary constraints, or program design issues, or for other reasons, and that establish waiting lists, should not discriminate between full-time and part-time status when enrolling students from the waiting list.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. When do I count a student for ancillary services and when do I count them as a part-time student?

A. Ancillary services are any co-curricular service or activity, any health care service or activity, or any other services or activities for or in which kindergarten through 12th grade students receive at a public school. Students receiving regularly scheduled instruction or services should be counted as a part-time student and reported based upon enrolled hours on OSPI form P-223. Students receiving instruction or services that are not regularly scheduled should be reported based upon actual contact hours on OSPI form P-240.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. If a student is enrolled in an online class, and they report to a classroom on a regular schedule to participate in the class, are they considered an ALE student?

A. Students who are participating in a course within the regular classroom setting and schedule are likely not an ALE student, and can be claimed as “seat time” students.

Last updated: 9/16/2011

Q. Can my ALE program offer more than one course type?

A. Yes. ALE programs are free to mix and match course types to provide students with learning options that will meet their needs.

Last updated: 8/19/2013

Relevant Forms or Samples

None.