Choice is an important principle in Alberta’s education system. School authorities have the flexibility to use resources and any method of delivery as long as Alberta Education requirements, including outcomes of the programs of study, are met. There are various program options for schools to respond to student learning needs. Alternative, home education, online learning, outreach, print-based distance education and shared responsibility programs are described in this section. For details regarding the funding rates for these various program options, see the Funding Manual for School Authorities.

For all programs other than home education, Alberta certificated teachers are responsible for instruction (as defined in the Definition of Instruction: Grade 1 to Grade 9 section and the Definition of Instruction: Grade 10 to Grade 12 section). The school authority is responsible for ensuring that teachers are meeting the requirements of the Teaching Quality Standard through the Teacher Growth, Supervision and Evaluation Policy.

Alternative Programs

Education Act, Section 19

Alberta Education supports the establishment of alternative programs, and section 19 of the Education Act sets out the rights of boards to provide alternative programs. The Education Act defines an alternative program as an education program that

(a) emphasizes a particular language, culture, religion or subject-matter, or
(b) uses a particular teaching philosophy,

but that is not a religious education program offered by a separate school board of that religious denomination, a Francophone education program or specialized supports and services under section 11.

Section 19(5) of the Education Act states that if a parent enrols a student in an alternative program, the board may charge that parent fees related to the alternative program only for the purpose of defraying all or a portion of any non-instructional costs that

(a) may be incurred by the board in offering the alternative program,

(b) are necessary for the delivery of the alternative program, and

(c) are in addition to the costs incurred by the board in providing education programs other than the alternative program.

School boards are permitted to provide alternative programs outside of their geographic boundaries provided that the resident school board has the first opportunity to deliver the alternative program.

For more information and requirements related to alternative programs, see the Alternative Programs Handbook or contact Field Services.

Home Education

Home education is an option where the parent has the primary responsibility for planning and selecting learning activities and resources as well as planning the instruction and assessment of student progress in accordance with the Home Education Regulation. The parent may choose one of two types of home education programs:

  1. a home education program that is supervised by a school board or accredited-funded private school and receives funding, or
  2. a home education program that is not supervised by a school board or accredited-funded private school and is not eligible for funding

Home Education Programs that are Supervised and Are Eligible for Funding

A parent may choose to develop a home education plan that follows the outcomes set out in either the Alberta programs of study or the schedule in the Home Education Regulation. An associate board or associate private school must facilitate student learning by offering assistance and advice to the parent. An associate board or associate private school must notify the parent of any implications that a home education plan may have on a student’s eligibility to be granted high school credits.

A parent choosing to provide a home education program that is supervised must annually notify a school board or an accredited-funded private school of this intention in the form and manner approved by the Minister. Notification of the intent to provide a supervised home education program can be made at any time during a school year.

A school board that consents to supervise a home education program is an associate board. An accredited-funded private school that consents to supervise a home education program is an associate private school. An associate board or associate private school will review the completed notification form and the home education plan developed by the parent and must notify the parent within 15 school days after receiving the notice.

The associate board or associate private school, together with the parent, evaluate the student’s progress in meeting the learning outcomes of the home education plan. A certificated teacher employed by the board or private school is required to conduct at least two evaluations with the parent and student in each school year. These evaluations focus on student progress in achieving the learning outcomes, including reviewing the parent’s records of student progress. Associate boards and associate private schools must offer home education students the opportunity to participate in applicable assessments under programs established by the Minister.

Funding is provided to associate boards and to associate private schools that supervise home education programs. Boards and accredited-funded private schools must offer not less than 50% of the home education program funding received to parents who are providing a home education program to students in accordance with the Home Education Regulation. Standards for Home Education Reimbursement provides authorities with information to meet their accountabilities regarding the use of home education funding. An associate board or associate private school supervising a home education program must enter the student’s resident board into PASI for funding consideration. Refer to the Funding Manual for School Authorities for information on home education funding.

An associate board or associate private school may terminate a parent’s home education program if it determines that the student is not making reasonable progress or if the parent providing the home education program has not met the requirements of the Home Education Regulation. If an associate board or associate private school terminates a home education program, it is responsible for the student’s education program for the remainder of the school year and must ensure that the student has access to an education program for the remainder of the year. A parent may also choose to terminate the home education program with notice to the associate board or associate private school.

Home Education Programs that Are Not Supervised and Are Not Eligible for Funding

A parent choosing to provide a home education program that is not supervised must annually notify the Minister of this intention in the form and manner approved by the Minister and within the time required by the Minister. A parent may provide notification of the intent to provide a home education program at any time during a school year.

A parent may choose to develop a home education program that follows the outcomes set out in either the Alberta programs of study or the schedule in the Home Education Regulation.

If there is, in the opinion of the Department of Education’s Director, reason to believe that a home education program that is not supervised is not being provided in accordance with the Home Education Regulation or does not provide a reasonable opportunity for the student to achieve the applicable outcomes, the Director may conduct, or may authorize another person to conduct, an investigation into the matter. The Director may, by notice to the parent, terminate the home education program that is not supervised. The parent may also choose to terminate the home education program with notice to the Minister.

For more information, see the Home education web page or contact Field Services.

Online Learning Programs

An online learning program is a structured learning environment in which students engage with their teachers in one or more online courses. Alberta certificated teachers employed by a school authority are responsible for instruction.

An online course is one in which the majority of instruction and assessment takes place over the Internet, using a learning management system (LMS). The LMS provides students with access to course content, teachers and other students. Students may access the LMS from multiple settings (in school and/or out of school buildings) and engage in both synchronous and asynchronous instruction.

School authorities engaging in online learning programs must ensure that elementary and junior high school students are provided with a minimum of 950 hours of instruction and senior high school students are provided with a minimum of 1000 hours of instruction (as defined in the Minimum Hours of Instruction: Grade 1 to Grade 9 section and the Minimum Hours of Instruction: Grade 10 to Grade 12 section). In addition, the following apply:

  • Alberta certificated teachers are assigned to deliver or supervise the instruction.
  • The instruction and evaluation of performance are based on the outcomes in an approved program of studies.
  • There are designated times when teachers are available to students.
  • Students know, prior to enrolling in courses, how and when they will be able to access the instructional expertise of teachers.

Instructional time includes time scheduled for purposes of instruction, examinations/testing and other student activities where direct student–teacher interaction and supervision are maintained.

School authorities are responsible for maintaining accurate information on student participation (e.g., attendance, assignment submission, course completion). In addition, school authorities are responsible for ensuring the accurate assignment of course and student enrolment codes:

  • A course section identified as “VTL: Distance Learning-Online” must be created for students enrolling in online courses.
  • Students must be identified, through appropriate coding, as being enrolled in an online learning program when greater than 50 percent of their overall school program is deemed to be online.

Students registered in online learning programs must be given the same opportunity and necessary supports to write provincial assessments as students in a classroom-based setting.

When a school provides the opportunity for a student to access an online learning course from another school authority, the student’s primary school and school authority are responsible for registering the student and for the ongoing monitoring of that student’s overall education program. The school and school authority providing instruction in the online course are responsible for all aspects of instruction, as per the Guide to Education and the Teaching Quality Standard.

School authorities cannot enrol ECS children in online learning programs, and students under age 16 may only be enrolled in online learning programs with the approval of the principal.

For more information, see the Online Learning School and School Authority Leader Guide.

Outreach Programs

An outreach program provides an educational alternative for students who, due to individual circumstances, find that the traditional school setting does not meet their needs. Outreach programs allow students to access resources that improve their ability to succeed academically and socially. A flexible approach is taken to teaching and learning in recognition of individual student needs. Outreach programs serve students of junior and senior high school age.

Boards may provide an outreach program within a school building or in a stand-alone facility. The nature of the students’ needs should be a factor in this decision. A stand-alone facility must meet Alberta and municipal building, health and safety standards for school buildings. The school board must ensure that its liability insurance extends to the stand-alone facility for the outreach program.

A school board must pass a motion describing the outreach program and its location. To support implementation, the school board must develop a written policy addressing, at a minimum, student eligibility, attendance requirements and performance expectations.

To support student success, the outreach program must provide students with access to services in addition to education courses and materials. Examples of such services are personal and career counselling, conflict resolution, anger management training, gifted and talented programs, time management training and study skills.

To initiate a new outreach program, the school board must make a written request to the Alberta Education Field Services Director for their region. The request must contain a copy of the minutes of the board approving the motion to proceed with a new outreach program and the proposed location of the program (the name of the school co-located with the outreach program, or the stand-alone facility).

For more information, see the Outreach Programs Handbook or contact Field Services.

Print-based Distance Education Programs

Print-based distance education programs refer to those programs where there is a separation of student and teacher in time and space, and where the majority of instruction and assessment takes place through print-based resources. Alberta certificated teachers employed by a school authority are responsible for instruction.

School authorities may offer their own print-based distance education programs or they may access the services of the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC). The ADLC is operated by Pembina Hills Public School Division. Information on programs and services may be obtained directly from the ADLC.

School authorities engaging in distance education programs must ensure that elementary and junior high school students are provided with a minimum of 950 hours of instruction and senior high school students are provided with a minimum of 1000 hours of instruction (as defined in the Minimum Hours of Instruction: Grade 1 to Grade 9 section and the Minimum Hours of Instruction: Grade 10 to Grade 12 section). In addition, the following apply:

  • Alberta certificated teachers are assigned to deliver or supervise the instruction.
  • The instruction and evaluation of performance are based on the outcomes in an approved program of studies.
  • There are designated times when teachers are available to students.
  • Students know, prior to enrolling in courses, how and when they will be able to access the instructional expertise of teachers.

Instructional time includes time scheduled for purposes of instruction, examinations/testing and other student activities where direct student–teacher interaction and supervision are maintained.

School authorities are responsible for maintaining accurate information on student participation (e.g., attendance, assignment submission, course completion). In addition, school authorities are responsible for ensuring the accurate assignment of course and student enrolment codes: a course section identified as “DSL: Distance Learning-print-based” must be created for students enrolling in print-based distance education courses.

Students registered in distance education programs must be given the same opportunity and necessary supports to write provincial assessments as students in a classroom-based setting.

When a school provides the opportunity for a student to access a print-based distance education course from another school authority, the student’s primary school and school authority are responsible for registering the student and for the ongoing monitoring of that student’s overall education program. The school and school authority providing instruction in the print-based distance education course are responsible for all aspects of instruction, as per the Guide to Education and the Teaching Quality Standard.

School authorities cannot enrol ECS children in distance education programs, and students under age 16 may only be enrolled in distance education programs with the approval of the principal.

Shared Responsibility Programs

A parent of a student providing a home education program to the student and an Alberta funded school authority may agree to share responsibility for the student’s education. Two conditions must be met for this to occur:

  1. The school authority portion of the agreement must consist of a program where an Alberta certificated teacher, employed by a school board or an accredited-funded private school, is responsible for planning, resource selection, instruction, assessment and evaluation of student progress in selected courses that follow the Alberta programs of study or locally developed courses. The school authority must be responsible for at least a minimum of 20% to a maximum of 80% of the student’s program in grades 1 to 12. Below this range, a student should be enrolled as a home education student, and above this range, a student should be enrolled as a regular or online student, with the school authority responsible for 100% of the program.
  2. The home education portion of the agreement must consist of an education program developed in accordance with the Education Act and the Home Education Regulation.

School authorities with students enrolled in a shared responsibility program will be required to enter the school program percentage as part of enrolment information submitted into PASI.

An associate board or associate private school supervising the home education portion of the shared responsibility program must enter the authority code of the student’s resident board into PASI for funding consideration.

School boards or accredited-funded private schools are not required to offer shared responsibility programs.

For more information on home education funding and submission deadlines, see the Funding Manual for School Authorities.

For more information on the requirements for the home education portion of the program, see the Home Education section above.

For more information on shared responsibility programs, contact Field Services.