If your district is offering, or planning to offer, individual online courses or an online school program, review these responsibilities to ensure that your district is meeting all of the online learning requirements.

ALE funding rules

If you are claiming the student for Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) funding, you must operate in accordance with WAC 392-121-182, covering alternative learning experiences. OSPI DLD provides program guidance for ALE and a checklist to see how a learning plan (WSLP) aligns with requirements.

The ALE rules require each ALE program or school to submit an annual report to OSPI. The report must be submitted using OSPI’s Education Data System (EDS). For authorization to access the ALE reporting system in EDS, please contact your District Data Security Manager. If you do not know who this is in your district, or if you need technical support with the ALE reporting system, contact OSPI’s Customer Support at or (800) 725-4311.

Citation: WAC 392-121-182

Action: Programs should ensure that they are complying with the ALE requirements.

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ALE Enrollment Reporting

Districts running Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) programs are required to report their ALE enrollment to OSPI monthly. Reporting is done through the EDS system. See the ALE Enrollment Reporting page for more information about this requirement.

Action: Programs must complete monthly reporting in EDS.

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OSPI approval process

Online course and school program providers are subject to the OSPI approval process. Learn more about the approval process and whether your program is required to seek approval.

Citation: RCW 28A.250 and WAC 392-502

Action: If the program meets the eligibility criteria, then it is subject to the OSPI approval process.

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Incorporation of OSPI Approval Criteria

All online providers, regardless of approval status, are required to “incorporate into the program design the approval criteria developed” by OSPI.

Citation: RCW 28A.250.050 (4)

Action: Develop and maintain online courses and programs in accordance with the OSPI approval criteria.

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Administration of State Assessments

Districts are responsible for administering the state assessments for students enrolled in online courses and school programs, even if the student does not reside within the district’s geographic boundaries. All of the usual testing requirements apply.

OSPI provides some guidance for administering assessments to non-resident students.

Citation: WAC 392-121-182

Action: Ensure online students take the state assessments.

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CEDARS Reporting

All courses that meet the definition of an “Online Course” must be entered into the CEDARS data system with the “Online” Course Designation Code (Element D07) as well as online teacher information. Course codes are generally entered into a district’s student information system, and then transferred to CEDARS on a regular basis. Contracted online teacher information must also be entered according to the SAFS personnel reporting instructions for S-275.

Citation: RCW 28A.250.040 (3)

Action: Programs should ensure that their courses are being properly designated in their district student information system (SIS), and that the SIS is sending properly coded course and teacher data to CEDARS.

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Choice Transfers

In the 2013 legislative session, OSPI was directed to create a standard form to be used for Choice Transfers for online school enrollments. The Standard Choice Transfer System (SCTS) was developed to meet this need. Per the statute, all districts must use the system for Choice Transfers for online school enrollment; however, the system is also able to process requests for non-online enrollments and Interdistrict Agreements.

Citation: RCW 28A.250.070

Action: Visit the Standard Choice Transfer Form page for the training schedule, instructions, and answers to frequently asked questions.

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Contracted Instruction

If your district is contracting out instruction to a “third party” provider (including any courses purchased through the DLD Online Course Catalog), it must comply with the “Contracted Instruction” regulations.

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CTE Enhanced Funding

All courses must be submitted to OSPI’s Career and College Readiness division for approval for the district using the course to be eligible to receive enhanced funding as a Career and Technical Education course in Washington. View the planning sheet (pdf). (Note: Beginning the 2013-14 school year, ALE enrollment, regardless of grade level, is funded at the estimated statewide annual average allocation per FTE in grades nine through twelve in general education. The rate does not include the impact of the lower class sizes in the elementary grades (both general education and high proverty). It also excludes funding enhancements that are built into the funding models for skill center and vocational students.)

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Funding Restrictions

Beginning with the 2011-12 school year, school districts may claim state basic education funding, to the extent otherwise allowed by state law, for students enrolled in online courses or programs only if the online courses or programs are:

  • Offered by an approved multidistrict online provider; or
  • Offered by a school district online learning program if the program serves students who reside within the geographic boundaries of the school district, including school district programs in which fewer than ten percent of the program's students reside outside the school district's geographic boundaries; or
  • Offered by a regional online learning program where courses are jointly developed and offered by two or more school districts or an educational service district through an interdistrict cooperative program agreement.

Beginning with the 2013–14 school year, only those online school programs or courses provided by approved online providers will qualify for state basic education funding, except as provided for in the law.

Districts may claim state basic education funding for non-approved providers if the course meets the criteria for district use of non-approved providers.

Note also that courses offered to students for which the district claims state education funding or that are included as part of the regular school day will be paid for by the school district.

Citation: WAC 392-502-080

Action: Ensure that students claimed for state basic education funding are enrolled in online courses that meet the funding requirements. Also, ensure that your district isn’t charging students for online courses taken during the regular school day.

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District-wide Annual Average Instructional Hours

For online school programs, districts are required to maintain a district-wide annual average of 1,000 instructional hours per year. The program should be structured in a way that does not adversely affect the district’s average.

Citation: WAC 180-16-200

Action: Ensure that the district’s annual average instructional hours do not fall below 1,000 hours.

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District Policy and Procedures

All school district boards of directors are required to develop a set of online learning policies and procedures. These documents cover student eligibility criteria, the types of online courses available to students through the school district, the methods districts will use to support student success, when the school district will and will not pay course fees and other costs, and more.

Citation: RCW 28A.250.050 (1)

Action: Ensure that the program offered by the district aligns to the district’s online learning policy and procedures.

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Special Education

Districts offering online courses or school programs should use the Special Education Guidelines for Online Schools to ensure compliance around recruitment, admission, and Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

Citation: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and WAC 392-137.

Action: Ensure that online providers follow the special education guidelines.

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Tax on purchased DLD courses

Districts may use a certificate to document their exemption from paying state taxes when purchasing online courses from OSPI.

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Transitional Bilingual Students

Transitional bilingual students should be served by the program based on the guidelines in RCW 28A.180 and WAC 392-160.

Citation: RCW 28A.180 and WAC 392-160

Action: Districts must serve transitional bilingual students in the manner outlined in RCW 28A.180 and WAC 392-160.

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Truancy procedures for ALE students

If a student does not have contact with a student for five consecutive school days without valid justification, you should be thinking about your truancy procedures and the Becca Bill. OSPI guidance on ALE student truancy can be found in this memo posted on November 5, 2013. Additionally, if a student does not have direct personal contact with a certificated teacher for twenty consecutive school days, you cannot claim funding for the student, as stated in section 7b of the ALE rules.

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Please note that this information is intended as guidance for districts to help with compliance of the various requirements. Districts are ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance to these items, along with all the existing education regulations.