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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: February 7, 2017 09:14 AM
From: Representative Jason Ortitay
To: All House members
Subject: Supplemental Online Course Initiative Legislation
In the near future, I will be re-introducing legislation from last session (former HB 1915) that will increase online learning opportunities for students by requiring the PA Department of Education (PDE) to establish a central repository of online courses accessible to public schools, nonpublic schools, home education programs, and the general public. The program created by this legislation will be known as the “Supplemental Online Course Initiative”.

Over the past decade, dramatic advancements in technology have given rise to increasingly innovative and personalized models of instruction. Statistics have demonstrated that higher education has successfully harnessed these new technologies to deliver instruction to college and university students, with approximately 15 percent of undergraduate students taking at least one distance or online course during their postsecondary careers.

The demand for customized, digital learning opportunities has also intensified in K-12 education, and many schools, including those in Pennsylvania, have become more innovative and forward-thinking in delivering instruction to students so that they can be competitive in college and careers in the 21st Century. I believe that the online course clearinghouse created by this legislation will provide an additional tool to our educators and schools to help meet this goal by leveraging existing technology to provide students with the opportunity to pursue coursework which is best-suited to their individual needs, and which might not otherwise be available.

The focus of this legislation will be the online clearinghouse created by PDE that will provide access to high-quality online courses to students in grades 6-12. The bill specifically establishes a two-phase implementation schedule for the clearinghouse, which will first offer free courses related to content tested by the Keystone Exams beginning with the 2018-2019 school year. In the second phase, beginning in 2019-2020 school year, the clearinghouse will also offer approved online courses from providers, subject to purchase through contract. To ensure high-quality options for students, the bill requires PDE to construct the clearinghouse so that it provides information to users about each course and offers the opportunity to school entities to provide feedback and a rating for such courses.

Furthermore, the bill affords public schools the flexibility to make use of these online learning opportunities, by allowing, but not requiring, schools to utilize courses made available through a school entity, the clearinghouse, or any other source. When a school entity decides to offer students the opportunity to participate in online courses, the bill requires the school entity to establish their own policies and procedures governing eligibility and participation and make parents and students aware of the opportunity.

The bill also provides for an application development and approval process, parameters for purchasing courses, penalties, and the issuance of a report regarding the program.

I hope that you will join me in encouraging innovation and creativity in learning environments across the state by co-sponsoring this legislation.

Thank you for your consideration.

Introduced as HB679