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Frequently Asked Questions for Parents and Students
Includes information about online school accreditation, enrollment, and GED.
Frequently Asked Questions About Starting an Online School or Program
Includes information about the multi-district certification process, MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding), and single-district school/program recognition.
- What is accreditation?
- Why is accreditation important?
- How do I know whether an online school is accredited?
- How do I enroll my student in an online school or program?
- How do I choose an online school?
- Can you recommend an online school?
- What kind of school or program do I enroll in: multi-district or single-district?
- What are the fees associated with enrolling my child at an online school?
- When do online schools enroll students? Can my student enroll at any time during the year?
- What if I do not have a computer or internet? Can my student still enroll in an online school?
- What are the age requirements for enrollment?
- My student has an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and receives special education services. Can they enroll in an online school?
- My student has been identified as gifted and talented. Can an online school accommodate a gifted child?
- Can my student participate in athletics or other extracurricular activities if they are enrolled in an online school?
- Can my student enlist in the military after graduating from an online school?
- Are the courses at an online school or program approved by the NCAA?
1. What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a method of quality assurance designed to distinguish schools adhering to a set of educational standards and evaluate a school's organizational effectiveness. Accreditation from a recognized accrediting agency indicates that a school offers quality education and training services, as defined by the accrediting agency's quality standards. This lends more credibility to a diploma obtained from an accredited school versus a diploma from an unaccredited school.
2. Why is accreditation important?
A diploma or degree from an accredited school assures both employers and post-secondary institutions, such as colleges and universities, that a prospective employee or student has attended a school that maintains a certain level of quality.
Most post-secondary institutions and employers will only accept diplomas or courses from schools accredited by an accrediting agency. However, not all accrediting agencies are created equally. Some accreditations may not be acceptable to a college/university or employer and it is the responsibility of the prospective employee or student to verify that their diploma or courses will be accepted.
Typically diplomas or courses that are earned through public school districts and schools accredited through a state Department of Education are accepted by almost all post-secondary institutions and employers. There are also national, regional and private school accreditation agencies that have widely accepted accreditations. It is always wise to investigate a school's accreditation and accrediting agency, especially when considering alternative, online, private or distance education schools and courses.
3. How do I know whether an online school is accredited?
All multi-district and single district schools listed on the Office of Online and Blended Learning site are accredited by the school district or Charter School Institute which they are authorized with. The school districts and Charter School Institute are accredited by the state. Additionally, some of the schools listed on the site may have also sought accreditation through regional accreditation agencies such as the agency listed below.
4. How do I enroll my student in an online school or program?
Most online schools will have their own specific steps for enrollment. However, online schools typically require the same documents as a brick and mortar school such as a birth certificate, proof of residency, immunization records, and prior school records if applicable. You will need to be a resident of the state of Colorado for enrollment in a multi-district school. If you are enrolling in a single district school/program, you will need to be a resident of the school district that the school or program operates in.
5. How do I choose an online school?
Since there are many types of online schools and programs, exploring what each one has to offer is a great place to start. Make sure the school offers the grade level you require. Some sc class="rteindent1"hools serve grades only K-8, others K-12 and some only serve middle school and/or high school age students. In addition to different grades levels, each online school may have a different focus. Some schools serve at-risk students and may offer credit recovery for high school age students who need to catch up on credits to graduate. Other schools may serve elementary and/ or middle school age students in a more traditional model or are college preparatory. The manner of instructional delivery may also vary. Some schools may offer face to face services in addition to the online portion of their program, while others deliver instruction strictly through the computer while the student is at home. Many schools hold informational meetings that you can attend, either online or in person to get more information about their program. Visit the links below for more information about choosing an online program.
- A Parent's Guide to Choosing the Right Online Program (iNACOL) (PDF)
- Choosing a Colorado Online School for Your Child (PDF)
- School Choice for Kids
6. Can you recommend an online school or program?
The Office of Online and Blended Learning cannot recommend a specific school or program but seeks to provide information about the schools and programs available so that you can make an informed decision that benefits your student and your situation. Please see the following publication regarding questions to ask when seeking to enroll your child in an online school.
7. What kind of school or program do I enroll in: multi-district or single-district?
Any student, regardless of the school district they reside in, may enroll in a multi-district online school as they serve a student population drawn from two or more districts and enroll students throughout the state of Colorado. If you reside in a school district that offers a Single district school/program, you must be a resident of the school district in which the school is located.
8. What are the fees associated with enrolling my child at an online school?
Online schools are public schools, therefore there is not a cost to enroll or attend. However, some schools may require a deposit if they are loaning a student computer.
9. When do online schools enroll students? Can my student enroll at any time during the year?
Typically online schools begin their enrollment process in early spring for the following school year. Some online schools have enrollment periods that allow a student to enroll at the beginning of the spring semester as well. Each online school has their own policy regarding when enrollment closes and then opens for the next semester. Some schools have a specific enrollment deadline in which they no longer enroll students, while others may allow an “open” enrollment policy, meaning that you may enroll at any time during the school year.
10. What if I do not have a computer or internet? Can my student still enroll in an online school?
There are online schools that provide students with a loaner computer, while some schools place the responsibility of computer access on the family/student. Access to internet service is necessary. Some schools may offer a reimbursement for the cost of internet services, others may not. Check with the school you are interested in enrolling in to verify their policy regarding loaner computers and internet reimbursement.
11. What are the age requirements for enrollment?
Online schools serve students from ages 5-21. In general, for enrollment in Kindergarten, the student needs to be 5 years old by the school district’s entrance deadline date. Colorado is a local control state; therefore district entrance deadlines vary for Kindergarten enrollment. Online schools can serve students until they graduate or reach the age of 21, whichever occurs first.
12. My student has an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and receives special education services. Can they enroll in an online school?
Students who are receiving special education services do enroll in online schools. Online schools are public schools and therefore must meet the legal requirements associated with meeting the needs of students who require special education services. Contact the online school prior to enrolling to go over your child’s IEP. This important step will help to ensure you are selecting the best environment for your child.
13. My student has been identified as gifted and talented. Can an online school accommodate a gifted students?
Many online schools have gifted and talented programs. Many of the online programs offer the flexibility to advance or enrich the gifted student’s experience. AP and honors courses are offered at the high school level in some schools.
14. Can my student participate in athletics or other extracurricular activities if they are enrolled in an online school?
Pursuant to C.R.S. 22-30.7-108, “a student who is participating in an online program, other than a student who is participating in an online program after having been expelled from a public school may participate on an equal basis in any extracurricular or interscholastic activity offered by a public school.”
15. Can my student enlist in the military after graduating from an online school?
The National Defense Authorization Act includes new standards that recognize graduates who earn a diploma from an accredited online school as Tier I military recruit. Previously, students who earned a diploma from an accredited online school were classified as Tier II military recruits and were limited due to acceptance limitations in which each branch of the military only accepted up to 10% from the Tier II bracket.
Although diplomas from accredited online schools are now Tier I, different military branches may have additional criteria or requirements for students who have graduated with an online diploma. Please contact a recruiter with the specific branch you are interested in to find out more.
There are online schools that offer core courses that are in compliance with NCAA eligibility criteria. To check on the whether the online school you are considering meets the NCAA’s eligibility standards, visit the NCAA Eligibility Center.
To find information about the GED please visit the GED Colorado home page.
- Should I apply for a multi-district certification or single-district program/school recognition?
- What is the due date for multi-district certification applications?
- Who or what is an Authorizer and what is their role in the application process?
- What are the Quality Standards?
- Who would be the person to sign as the Authorizer on the application?
- What is the timeline for review of applications?
- Who reviews the applications?
- What is the next step in the process after the application has been approved for certification by CDE?
- What would be the reason that my application would be denied and returned?
- What happens if the application is returned for resubmission?
- Is there a re-certification process for multi-district online programs that are already certified?
- What is the MOU (Memo of Understanding) process and is it necessary to submit a MOU with the certification application?
- What happens once the local school district receives the MOU for the proposed learning center in their district?
- What is the due date for single-district programs and schools recognition applications?
- Who reviews the single-district application for recognition?
- Do I need to apply for a school code?
- Is there a rubric for single-district applications?
- Do I need to apply for recognition for a supplemental online program?
If it is anticipated that the online school will serve students from any other school district, then a multi-district application for certification will be required. Only multi-district online schools must have their relationship with their authorizer certified by the Office of Online and Blended Learning.
An application for recognition should be completed when an online school or program will only serve students who reside within the authorizing school district.
Please see Single-district Recognition Application FAQ’s for more information about the application process for single-district schools/programs.
2. What is the due date for multi-district certification applications?
There are two application windows for multi-district certification. The first deadline is the first business day in January and the second deadline is the first business day in April. Check the Certification Application information for the specific dates for the current year.
3. Who or what is an Authorizer and what is their role in the application process?
An Authorizer is an entity that authorizes or oversees schools, and is ultimately responsible for the compliance and accountability of the schools it authorizes. A multi-district online school Authorizer can be a school district, a group of two or more school districts, the state charter school institute or BOCES. The Authorizer must demonstrate that it possesses the resources and capacity to provide sufficient oversight of a multi-district online school.
4. What are the Quality Standards?
The Quality Standards can be found on the Technical Assistance page and are also listed on the multi-district application as a checklist. The Quality Standards are statutory based and were established to provide evaluation criteria guidance and best practices in operations of multi-district online schools.
5. Who would be the person to sign as the authorizer on the application?
If the online school is authorized by a district, the Superintendent would act as the signature authority for the authorizer. The director of the Charter School Institute or the director of a BOCES would act as the signature authority in the instance a school is authorized by the Charter School Institute or a BOCES.
6. What is the timeline for review of applications?
The review time for a multi-district application will not exceed 60 days for the first submission.
7. Who reviews the applications?
Multi-district applications for certification are reviewed both externally by a panel of reviewers with experience in online learning and internally by the Office of Online and Blended Learning. Each application for certification will be reviewed and rated individually by internal and external reviewers using the review rubric. Reviewers will evaluate each required component of the application to determine if the application’s description of that component meets expectations for certification set out in the review rubric. The rubric focuses on the completeness, specificity and quality of evidence the Applicant presents to support the description.
8. What is the next step in the process after the application has been approved for certification by CDE?
After the application has met the expectations for certification as outlined on the rubric and has been approved, the certification is submitted for approval at the next scheduled State Board of Education meeting. Once the State Board has approved the application, a letter will be sent with notification of the certification approval.
9. What would be the reason that my application would be denied and returned?
Some of the most common reasons for an application to be denied and require re-submission is there was no evidence shown that the online school has Authorizer approval, the school may not be able to implement compliance with quality standards by the proposed start date or the Authorizer has not provided enough evidence to show that it has the capacity to oversee the online school successfully.
10. What happens if the application is returned for resubmission?
If the application does not meet expectations in any area, a notification letter will be sent to the applicant. Once the notification is received, the applicant will have 30 days to resubmit the amended sections of the application. The resubmission will then be reviewed and the applicant will be notified of the final decision to either approve or deny the certification before the end of the 60 day window.
Specific feedback will be provided to the Authorizer about which application components were not addressed with sufficient detail and completeness or which application components were scored as “Below Expectations” after review.
Using this feedback, the Authorizer may submit a supplemental application addressing only the identified components within 30 days of receiving notice from CDE.
If after the re-submission the application does not adequately address all required components, the certification will be denied. If CDE does not receive response to the components that were not adequately addressed within the thirty days, the certification will be denied. If certification is denied, the Authorizer-Applicant cannot re-apply until the next application window.
11. Is there a re-certification process for multi-district online programs that are already certified?
Under current Colorado Revised Statutes, once the multi-district online school has been certified, the multi-district online school remains certified indefinitely, as long as it remains in good standing with statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to online schools.
12. What is the MOU (Memo of Understanding) process and is it necessary to submit a MOU with the certification application?
For a multi-district online school with physical facilities defined in law and regulations as “Learning Centers” located in a district other than the authorizing district, an additional step beyond certification is required: the Authorizer must notify the district in which the Learning Center is located and must offer to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the district. The MOU details agreements related to facilities, communication, sharing of student data, and inter-district sharing of resources and other means to improve student achievement. It is required to be submitted only when a multi-district online school intends to operate Learning Centers that are located outside of the boundaries of the authorizing district.
13. What happens once the local school district receives the MOU for the proposed learning center in their district?
Once the local school district receives the MOU, there are four possibilities that may occur:
- The local school district may accept the MOU and sign to indicate acceptance. In this situation, the local school district and Multi-District school may mutually agree to change the information in the standard MOU form provided with the notice to include information in addition to what is currently included in the MOU form.
- The local school district and multi-district online program may mutually agree in writing to decline to enter into a MOU.
- The local school district may decline to enter into a MOU with the multi-district online school if the standard MOU form provided by the multi-district online school fails to satisfy the statutory requirements or the local school district reasonably determines that the multi-district online school is contrary to the best interests of the pupils, parents, community or school district. In this situation, the multi-district online school may appeal the school district’s decision to the state board.
- If the local school district does not provide notice of its decision within forty-five days, the MOU shall become effective on the forty-sixth day following the school district’s receipt of the notice, and the applicant may proceed under the terms of the MOU as provided to the local school district.
Applications for recognition are accepted throughout the year; however, they should be submitted prior to June 1st of the school year the program proposes to begin operations to ensure time for school code application.
15. Who reviews the single-district application for recognition?
Applications for recognition for single-district schools and programs are reviewed by internal staff from the Office of Online and Blended Learning to verify that the proposed school or program meets the statutory definition of an online school/program.
16. Do I need to apply for a school code?
Single-district online programs are not required to apply for a school code unless pupil enrollment exceeds 100 students. A single-district school with a school code operates with its own administrator, a separate budget and is subject to the same accountability requirements as any other public school in the state.
17. Is there a rubric for single-district applications?
There is not a rubric for single-district applications for recognition as the only requirement for recognition is that the school or program meets that statutory definition of an online school/program. However, guidance about best practices can be obtained by viewing the Quality Standards and by reviewing the rubric for the multi-district school certification rubric.
18. Do I need to apply for recognition for a supplemental online program?
Supplemental programs do not apply for recognition for their program. Supplemental programs are those programs that offer one or more online courses to students to augment an educational program provided by a school district, charter school or BOCES.
Please submit additional questions to Renee Martinez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-866-6864.