Section 3k: Substantially similar experiences and services

Rule Text

(k) "Substantially similar experiences and services" means that for each purchased or contracted instructional or cocurricular 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:

(i) At a similar grade level;

(ii) At a similar level of frequency, intensity, and duration including, but not limited to, consideration of individual versus group instruction;

(iii) At a similar level of cost 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;

(iv) In accordance with district adopted content standards or state defined grade level standards; and

(v) That is supervised, monitored, assessed, evaluated, and documented by a certificated teacher.

Comments

This definition is intended to help clarify the prohibitions against purchased or contracted for experiences or services for ALE students. The definition identifies parameters a district must consider when determining if substantially similar experiences or services are available to students in the regular instructional program. It is important to remember that the prohibition applies to district-funded activities that the district purchases or contracts out. If ALE students are engaged in learning plan activities that are not funded by the district, but by the student/parent, or that don’t have a cost, then the prohibition does not apply. The prohibition also does not apply to activities that are not purchased or contracted out.

The substantially similar activity must actually be made available to students in the district’s regular instructional program. Districts cannot meet the requirement by simply offering that any student can avail themselves of the activity through the district’s ALE program.

Common Questions

Q. What if the learning activities are provided by district employees as part of their district duties?

A. Generally speaking, learning activities provided by district staff—those employees actually hired by the district—are not subject to this prohibition. Keep in mind that the employee providing the learning activity is subject to all district employee rules and requirements, including fingerprint background checks. Districts should discuss with their legal counsel and insurance providers any activities that are performed regularly by employees in non-district owned facilities to determine what liabilities should be addressed.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. The definition applies to "…purchasing or contracting for instructional or co-curricular experiences and services that are included in an alternative learning experience written student learning plan…" What about experiences or services not included in the WSLP?

A. For ALE, the WSLP represents the student’s academic program. It describes the course or courses the student is taking, including the learning activities for each course—it defines the student’s full alternative learning experience. Therefore, for an ALE student, there is no basis for the district to pay for any courses, experiences, or services not included in the WSLP.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. Is there a reporting requirement associated with this new prohibition?

A. Yes. When a district purchases or contracts for instructional or co-curricular experiences and services in the ALE, and makes available substantially similar experiences or services to students in the regular instructional program, the district must report annually to OSPI both the purchased or contracted for ALE activity AND the substantially similar regular instructional program activity. See section 9(b) regarding reporting requirements.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. Can a completed substantially similar checklist meet the reporting requirements?

A. The annual substantially similar report must be done using the form provided in EDS. But, if you have completed the checklist for each item, it’ll make it much easier to complete the report. And, having the completed checklists available can also assist districts in the event of an audit.

Last updated: 8/19/2013

Q. Who is responsible for offering, documenting and reporting “substantially similar” for a choice transfer student? What about a student shared between districts via an inter-district agreement?

A. The district that enrolls the choice student into the ALE program is responsible for offering, documenting, and reporting the substantially similar experiences/services. When a student is shared, the district that is offering the ALE program is responsible for offering, documenting, and reporting substantially similar experiences/services. If both districts offer ALE, then both are responsible for offering, documenting, and reporting their respective substantially similar offerings.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

Q. Can a student enrolled in the regular instructional program take a course through the ALE funding model and therefore act as the "substantially similar" experience for students enrolled in the ALE program?

A. No. The "substantially similar" experiences or services must be offered in the district’s regular instructional program. Simply making ALE courses available to students in the regular program does not meet the "substantially similar" standard.

Last updated: 8/12/2011

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.