Dear Charter School Administrators and Authorizers:
Charter school officials have asked what the required attendance accounting audit trail is for their schools' nonclassroom-based independent study average daily attendance (ADA).
Education Code Section 47612.5 sets forth specific requirements with which charter schools must comply as conditions of apportionment. Among other things, Section 47612.5 requires that charter schools that provide nonclassroom-based independent study must comply with the provisions of Article 5.5 (commencing with Section 51745 ) of Chapter 5 of Part 28 of the Education Code and implementing regulations adopted thereunder.
Within the referenced Article 5.5, Section 51747.5(b) specifically limits the amount of apportionment credit that may be claimed for nonclassroom-based independent study to the extent of the time value of student work products, as personally judged in each instance by a certificated teacher. Pursuant to Section 47612.5 , Section 51747.5(b) thereby clearly requires that charter school nonclassroom-based independent study teachers, as one condition of apportionment, assess and record the time value of their students' work.
In traditional schools, teachers assess the time value of nonclassroom-based independent study work to determine the completion of at least the "minimum day" defined in law for the grade level of the student and thereby record a "day of attendance." Those minimum day definitions do not apply to charter schools, however. Charter nonclassroom-based independent study school teachers, therefore, have no statutory standards on which they must base their time value calculations. The absence of a statutory minimum day standard for charter schools also means that Section 51747.5(b) alone cannot reasonably provide a complete basis for determining apportionment credit for nonclassroom-based independent study in charter schools. Section 51747.5(b) acts as a nonclassroom-based independent study-only requirement beyond the fundamental charter school ADA provisions in Section 11960 of Title 5, California Code of Regulations.
Section 11960 defines "attendance," for use in calculating charter school ADA, as occurring when "charter school pupils [are] engaged in educational activities required of them by their charter schools on days when school is actually taught in their charter schools" - with the proviso that "no charter school pupil may generate more than one day of attendance in a calendar day." To those provisions, then, Section 51747.5(b) in effect adds the requirement that the amount of work done by the student on a day of nonclassroom-based independent study attendance must have a time value, judged as required, of at least one day.
To put the matter another way, the minimum amount of work necessary to constitute a charter school day of nonclassroom-based independent study attendance is within the charter school's and teacher's discretion to determine - but whatever that minimum amount of work is, it must be done on the scheduled school day for which it is claimed as attendance for ADA purposes. Any amount of work done beyond the minimum on that day generates no further ADA credit. The central elements of the audit trail for charter school nonclassroom-based independent study ADA, then, are (1) the calendar showing which days are school days and (2) contemporaneous records for each student identifying clearly each school day in that calendar on which the student "engaged in [required] educational activities" to an extent sufficient to constitute at least one day of time value. Charter schools annual calendar must meet or exceed 175 days in any fiscal year in order to generate full apportionment credit, unless the charter school has a State Board of Education approved waiver. In addition, Education Code Section 47612.5 requires charters to "offer at a minimum, the same number of minutes of instruction set forth in paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) of Section 46201 for the appropriate grade levels."
Other record-keeping requirements specific to nonclassroom-based independent study are set forth in Section 11703, Title 5, California Code of Regulations. Section 11700 is one of the "implementing regulations" referred to in Section 47612.5 , meaning that all its provisions are applicable to charter schools as conditions of apportionment.
We conclude that both methods of attendance accounting are required for charter schools offering nonclassroom-based independent study instruction. We strongly recommend charter schools work directly with their auditor to develop appropriate and adequate record keeping and bookkeeping procedures to insure that the charter school remains compliant with both time value and contemporaneous record requirements.
For additional information, you may contact the Charter Schools Division at 916-322-6029 or the School Fiscal Services Division at 916-324-4541.
Marta Reyes, Director
Charter Schools Division
Scott Hannan, Director
School Fiscal Services Division