Online courses and other technology-based programs will play a key role in helping educators meet new requirements for supplemental services under the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) told school leaders during a nationwide conference June 13-14. But while many administrators were satisfied by ED’s guidance, others said the department left questions unanswered.

The ED-sponsored event, “Serving all Schoolchildren and Increasing Options for Parents,” brought more than 300 school decision-makers together in the nation’s capital to listen, share suggestions, and ask questions about the Bush administration policy, which now holds all schools accountable for ensuring that students achieve “adequate yearly progress” (AYP).

AYP standards are defined by each state according to their own criteria. The standards were created under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1994, but schools have not been held accountable for meeting these standards until now.

Beginning this fall, schools that have not met their states’ AYP standards for two consecutive years will be required to provide transfer options to low-income students—those who qualify for Title I status—until such strides are made, according to ED officials. Schools that haven’t met progress standards for three consecutive years must provide state-approved supplemental services, such as after-school tutoring, to students whose parents request them.

Under these new rules, more than 8,600 schools nationwide must provide transfer options to students beginning this fall, ED announced in late June. The number of schools that must provide supplemental services beginning this fall was not available at press time.

Schools can use Title I funds to pay for required supplemental services or the transportation of students to better-performing schools, ED said.

To make sense of these new requirements, attendees had the opportunity to participate in several work sessions and panel discussions at the ED-sponsored conference, including “Using Technology to Expand Opportunities for Supplemental Services.” The hour-long presentation served as a precursor to an address by U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and provided several examples of how schools could look to the internet for federally acceptable supplemental service providers.

Julie Young, executive director of the Florida Virtual School, told attendees that online services are ideal as supplemental programs because they promote parental integration and allow easy access to information, which can be used to track the progress and achievement of children.

According to Young, the Florida program lets parents read progress reports, view work, check up on assignments, and monitor learning by way of online profiles.

“Imagine, if you will, every parent can be in every classroom every day,” Young said.