Accountability for Students in K-12 Online Learning: Perspectives from Michigan Stakeholders and Beyond


  • Leanna Archambault Arizona State University
  • Kathryn Kennedy Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute
  • Joe Freidhoff Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute



K-12 online learning, accountability, policy, course access


Policy surrounding K-12 online learning continues to evolve as the field grows exponentially. In Michigan, Section 21f of the State School Aid Act enacted in 2013 strengthened parents’ and students’ ability to request online courses: “A student enrolled in a district in any of grades 6 to 12 is eligible to enroll in an online course as provided for in this section.” The passing of 21f raised concerns around accountability in a choice environment. Examples of such concerns included a pervasive belief about the lack of rigor or quality in online courses, an aversion to another district educating a student for one or two courses yet remaining responsible for that student’s growth, and uncertainty about how mentors and teachers would be evaluated on their online students. Consequently, a legislative directive was issued to the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, the research arm of Michigan Virtual University that centered on accountability. In response to that directive, Michigan stakeholders, as well as experts from other course access states and national organizations, were interviewed to better understand the conversations surrounding accountability in K-12 online learning in Michigan and beyond and to make key recommendations for moving the field forward in an informed way. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Implications for research, policy, and practice are shared.


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Invited Papers / 2015 OLC Conference Special Issue