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Data & Information

Florida

Florida is the first state in the country to legislate that all K-12 students will have full- and part time virtual options, and that funding will follow each student down to the course level. Florida has a long history of supporting online learning. In addition to district programs and fully online schools, Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is the largest state virtual school in the country, and served 410,00 course enrollments in SY 2013-14, a 4% decline. More students take online courses in Florida than in any other state, with more than 240,000 students taking online courses through part- or full-time programs in SY 2013-14. HB7197 (2011) authorized full- and part-time options for students in grades K-12 through District/Virtual Course Offerings, and CS/CS/HB7063 (2012) allows Florida Virtual School (FLVS) to add part-time options for students in grades K-5. Florida has a long history of supporting online learning. In addition to district programs and fully online schools, Florida Virtual School is the largest state virtual school in the country.

Fully online schools

Florida has a variety of online options for students in grades K-12 that are summarized in the table below. All of Florida’s virtual schools and programs are designated by law as school choice options for Florida families. Teachers in these programs must hold Florida teaching certificates, and the curriculum must meet state standards. In addition, 2011 legislation stated that virtual programs and courses must meet standards set by iNACOL and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).

Full-time public school students participate in state assessments, and full-time schools and programs receive school grades through Florida’s accountability system. Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is the main supplemental provider. FLVS served 377,508 successful supplemental course enrollments to 192,820 unique students in SY 2013-14, decreases of 8% and 7% respectively. In 2000, legislation established FLVS as an independent education entity. Legislation enacted in 2002 and 2003 granted parental rights for public school choice, listed FLVS as an option, and defined full-time equivalent (FTE) students for FLVS based on “course completion and performance” rather than on seat time. The program has 1,175 full-time teachers and 237 part-time teachers. FLVS is governed by Florida Statute 1002.37; students retain the right to choose FLVS courses to satisfy their educational goals.

FLVS runs a full-time online option, FLVS FT, operated in partnership with Connections Academy for grades K-12. The full-time online school served a total of 5,366 students in grades K-8 in SY 2012-13.

The first two virtual charter schools opened in SY 2012-13 in Osceola School District. iVirtual League Academy is serving students in grades K-12 and is operated by Charter Schools USA. Florida Virtual Academy at Osceola is serving students in grades K-9 and is operated by K12 Inc. An additional five virtual charters are open in SY 2013-14, and K12 Inc. operates a small statewide online school that served 11 students in SY 2012-13.

 

Virtual Program / School Program Type Grade Levels Served Student Eligibility Enrollments 2011-12
State Level
Florida Virtual School (FLVS) Part Time K-12 All students K-1 and 6-12Grades 2-5 per s. 1002.455 303,329 course enrollments
Florida Virtual School Full Time (FLVS FT) Full Time K-12 All students 3,866 students
District Level
District Franchise of FLVS Same as FLVS Same as FLVS Same as FLVS 2,000 FT students10,000 enrollments
District Virtual Instruction Program (VIP); Provider or District Operated Full TimePart Time K-12K-12 All students per s. 1002.455All students per s. 1002.455 3,000 FT students (*not including the 2,000 from the district franchises listed above)200 students
District Virtual Course Offerings Full TimePart Time K-12K-12 All students per s. 1002.455All students per s. 1002.455 0800
Virtual Charter School Full Time K-56-12 All students per s. 1002.455 0


All students = Public, private, and home education students. Supplemental courses are reported as number of course enrollments, and full-time online students are reported as the number of students.

Eligibility per s. 1002.455 = Students must meet one of the following criteria: Prior-year in Florida public school, siblings of virtual students enrolled in current and end of previous year, military dependents who recently moved to Florida, students in grades K-1, students in grades K-5 enrolling in full-time virtual program.

Limited Part Time = Grades K-12 courses measured by FCAT, End-of-course (EOC) assessments and AP exams; courses offered to students enrolled in dropout prevention, academic intervention and Department of Juvenile Justice programs; core courses to meet class size requirements; or Florida college grades K-12 courses.

Table 1: Source: Florida’s public virtual education options 2012-13, http://www.fldoe.org/schools/virtual-schools/pdf/veof.pdf

State virtual school

Florida Virtual School is the largest state virtual school in the country, offering a mix of part- and full-time options to students across the state. It served 410,000 course enrollments in SY 2013-14, a 4% decrease.

In 2000, legislation established FLVS as an independent education entity. Legislation enacted in 2002 and 2003 granted parental rights for public school choice,  listed FLVS as an option, and defined full-time equivalent (FTE) students for FLVS based on “course completion and performance” rather than on seat time. The program has 1,140 full-time teachers (down from 1,412) and 45 part-time teachers (down from 684) as of August 2013, down significantly from the end of SY 2012-13. FLVS is governed by Florida Statute 1002.37;  students retain the right to choose FLVS courses to satisfy their educational goals.

District programs

Through the Virtual Instruction Program, all Florida school districts offer full-time and part-time virtual instruction programs for students in grades K-12. For some districts, franchises of FLVS are used to meet this requirement. There were 7,800 fully online students enrolled in all district virtual programs in SY 2012-13, an annual increase of 56%. Most districts operate more than one virtual program under the VIP umbrella, and the number of options increased in 2011-12 due to a requirement for many districts to offer at least three options at all grade levels. To accommodate the requirement that all but the small districts offer multiple providers, some districts are entering into agreements with other districts to allow their students to enroll in their VIPs or signing up with regional education agencies.

District Franchises of FLVS allow districts to use FLVS courses with their own teachers. Two regional consortia (the Panhandle Regional Consortium and the North East Florida Regional Consortium) representing 27 districts, and an additional 29 districts independently, representing 56 out of 67 districts statewide, operate franchises of FLVS. This represents a dramatic increase from eight franchises in 2008-09. The franchises reported over 42,614 half-credit completions in SY 2012-13, a 29% increase over the previous year. These enrollments include about 3,000 fully online students, while about 12,000 were supplemental course enrollments. These are in addition to the FLVS enrollments reported above. Although districts may use their franchises to meet VIP requirements, the franchises also serve home education, private school, and other public school students.

District Virtual Course Offerings: Districts also may offer online courses for grades K-12 outside of their VIP and district franchises. Beginning in SY 2013-14, students can cross district lines to take online courses from other districts regardless of whether it is offered in their district. The VIP and virtual charter schools are funded through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) based on successful completions. Districts receive FEFP funding for each student and may negotiate with virtual instruction providers for rate below the per-pupil funding. Completions are defined by 1011.61 as:

-        Grades K-5: grade promotion

-        Grades 6-8: course completion with passing grade

-        Grades 9-12: credits earned

Online learning policy history

Florida has a lengthy policy history in regard to online and blended learning; all details are included below.

FLVS is governed by Florida Statute 1002.37; students retain the right to choose FLVS courses to satisfy their educational goals. Under Florida Statute 1002.45, students may also choose to participate in a district virtual instruction program. Section 1002.33 authorizes virtual charter schools as of 2011. Section 1003.498 authorizes districts to offer individual online courses in addition to their current virtual schools and programs. Section 1002.455 delineates student eligibility for most virtual programs. The following policies and rules apply to district virtual instruction programs and virtual charter schools:

  • Students must have been Florida public school students the previous year, military dependents who recently moved to Florida, siblings of students already in the virtual program or eligible to enter grades K-1.
  • Students must be provided the necessary instructional materials and when appropriate the equipment and Internet access necessary to participate.
  • Providers must be approved by the DOE based on a set of qualifications.
  • A provider of digital or online curriculum used to supplement instruction of students not enrolled in this program does not have to meet the requirements of this law.

All online programs must abide by the following quality assurance guidelines:

  • Instructional staff must be Florida-certified, and curriculum and course content must be aligned to state standards.
  • Provider virtual instruction online programs and courses must meet iNACOL standards.
  • All full time virtual programs must participate in the statewide assessment program and in the state’s education performance accountability system.
  • Districts will receive a school grade or school improvement rating for district-operated programs.
  • Each approved provider will receive a school grade or school improvement rating based on the aggregated assessment scores for all students served by the provider statewide. The provider’s contract must be terminated if the provider receives a school grade of “D” or “F” or a school improvement rating of “Declining” for two years during any four-year period.
  • The performance of part-time students in grades 9-12 “shall be included in the school grade of the non-virtual school providing the student’s primary instruction.”
  • Part-time providers will be evaluated by the DOE.
  • SB2110 authorizes Florida’s auditor general to audit virtual education providers.
  • SB2120 (2011) states that by the 2015-16 fiscal year, each district school shall use at least 50% of the annual allocation for purchase of digital or electronic instructional materials included on the state-adopted list.

2011:Legislation passed in 2011 (CS/CS/HB7197) changed Florida’s online learning landscape, opening the door to a full suite of supplemental and full-time online options—often with multiple providers to choose from at both the district and state level—for all students in grades K-12. Modifications to existing legislation, as well as new online and blended program options, are as follows:

  • Florida Virtual School Full Time (FLVS FT) now offers a full-time option directly to all K-12 students statewide. Previously, all districts had to provide students with a full-time option through the School District Virtual Instruction Program (VIP). Now students can choose a state-level option via FLVS. FLVS FT will offer high school diplomas beginning in 2012-13.
  • FLVS and school district franchises of FLVS can offer supplemental middle school courses to 4th and 5th graders.
  • School districts can offer individual online courses for students in grades pre-kindergarten to 12th, in addition to what they offer in their brick-and-mortar schools, district virtual instruction programs (VIP) and district franchises of FLVS. Students from other districts can also enroll in these courses if their district does not offer them.
  • Medium and large districts must now offer three different options at all grade levels as part of each district’s VIP program; small districts must offer at least one option.
  • The district VIP part-time program was expanded to include a new grades 9-12 program that includes courses measured by state assessments (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) and end-of-course) and Advanced Placement (AP)® exams. The Florida Department of Education (DOE) will develop an evaluation method for part-time providers that includes the percentage of students making learning gains, successfully passing end-of-course assessments, taking AP exams, and scoring three or higher on AP exams.
  • The previous part-time VIP program for students enrolled in dropout prevention, core courses to meet class size, community college-offered K-12 courses, etc., has expanded beyond grades 9-12 to include K-8.
  • Full-time online charter schools are now authorized. They must use DOE-approved providers for their educational programs, and they must document this when they apply to school districts to operate virtual charters. They may only serve students within the district.
  • Beginning with students entering 9th grade in 2011-12, all students must take an online course as a high school graduation requirement.
  • By 2014-15, all state-mandated end-of-course assessments must be delivered online.
  • District schools are authorized to offer both online and blended courses. Full-time online charter schools are authorized to offer blended courses.
  • However, funding was also slashed across the state for both brick-and-mortar and virtual schools. Virtual options lost class size funding (as FLVS did two years ago), so the funding for all students is, for most districts, at or near the minimum of $4,800 per student for the 2011-12 school year.

2012:Legislation passed in 2012 authorized part-time courses for elementary students through FLVS, clarified the online learning requirement passed in 2011, and linked funding for both online and brick-and-mortar students to end-of-course exams beginning in 2013-14 . CS/CS/HB7063 (2012) included the following provisions:

  • Clarified the online learning requirement to prohibit a district from requiring a student to take an online course to meet graduation requirements outside of the school day or in addition to a full load of courses. Also provided exemptions for meeting the online course graduation requirement for students who have individual education plans (IEPs) that indicate an online course would not be appropriate and for students who have been enrolled in a Florida high school for one year or less.
  • Funding for courses with EOCs are performance-based for brick-and-mortar schools and virtual schools beginning in their fourth year of implementation (e.g., 2013-14 for Algebra I).
  • A full-time FLVS student may be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities at the student’s local district public school. The law also specified that students must abide by district policies including residency, behavior, and performance requirements.
  • Required FLVS students to take statewide assessments at their local district public school.
  • Clarified funding definitions and restrictions for full-time virtual instruction programs. It removed the requirement that elementary students complete an entire basic education program and be promoted to a higher grade level to earn any funding, allowing elementary students to earn partial FTE.
  • District funding and enrollment periods are modified.
  • Required providers to include a financial audit as part of the virtual instruction program provider approval process.
  • Revised provisions related to virtual instruction through blended learning opportunities provided by districts in a traditional setting.
  • Specified that students in blended learning courses must be full-time students of the school and receive the online instruction in a classroom setting. The funding, performance, and accountability requirements are the same as for traditional courses.
  • Required fully virtual programs to fulfill exceptional education student requirements.

2013:SB1514 (2013) changes the funding structure for all schools, traditional and virtual, including FLVS. Previously, districts received full funding for up to six courses for each student, and FLVS received funding for all courses completed by students, whether that was a student’s sixth course or courses beyond one FTE. With the passage of SB1514, students can no longer generate more than one FTE; instead, a student’s FTE will be distributed proportionally by the department of education (DOE) to each district (FLVS is considered a district) for as many courses as a student takes. This creates an incentive for districts to encourage students to take in-district traditional or virtual courses as they can potentially lose money if students take any out-of-district courses, or if a student takes a virtual course and does not complete it, thereby not generating funding.

 

Quality assurance, teaching and curriculum
  • Instructional staff must be Florida-certified, and curriculum and course content must be aligned to state standards.
  • Provider virtual instruction online programs and courses must meet iNACOL standards.
  • All full time virtual programs must participate in the statewide assessment program and in the state’s education performance accountability system.
  • Districts will receive a school grade or school improvement rating for district-operated programs.
  • Each approved provider will receive a school grade or school improvement rating based on the aggregated assessment scores for all students served by the provider statewide. The provider’s contract must be terminated if the provider receives a school grade of “D” or “F” or a school improvement rating of “Declining” for two years during any four-year period.
  • The performance of part-time students in grades 9-12 “shall be included in the school grade of the non-virtual school providing the student’s primary instruction.”
  • Part-time providers will be evaluated by the DOE.
  • SB2110 authorizes Florida’s auditor general to audit virtual education providers.
  • SB2120 (2011) states that by the 2015-16 fiscal year, each district school shall use at least 50% of the annual allocation for purchase of digital or electronic instructional materials included on the state-adopted list.
  • 2014:SB850 (2014) requires the DOE to provide web-based professional development to help teachers integrate digital instruction into classrooms. In addition, it changed the state’s online learning requirement by allowing students to take online driver education courses, the only course previously excluded from counting toward the requirement.

    HB5101 (2014) creates a Digital Classrooms Allocation that will “support school district and school efforts and strategies to improve outcomes related to student performance by integrating technology in classroom teaching and learning.” All funds expended must be outlined in a digital classroom plan which must be developed by each district, as well as an overall state plan to be developed by the Office of Technology and Information Services by October 2014. Each district is guaranteed a minimum of $250,000, with additional funds going to larger districts. HB5101 also addresses a concern about students not being aware of virtual options, and requires that at the beginning of every school year all districts must notify students and parents of their right to choose a virtual program.

Blended learning

Students also have some blended options. FLVS has Virtual Learning Labs in most districts where students can take an online FLVS class in their local school with access to a local teacher. Volusia Virtual School is working with all high schools in its district (about 15) to offer economics and American Government in a blended learning environment, fulfilling the online learning requirement for seniors. Pivot Charter School operates three locations in the state (Ft. Myers, Tampa, and Ft. Lauderdale) that allow students to access an individualized online curriculum from learning centers with certified teachers.

last updated October 9, 2014

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