Virtual School Meanderings

May 13, 2016

2016 Building a Grad Nation Report

This report was released earlier this week…  Note what they have to say about charter, virtual and alternative programs…

2016 Building a Grad Nation Report


Written annually by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, and released in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, this report examines the progress and challenges the nation faces in reaching the GradNation goal of a national on-time graduation rate of 90 percent by the Class of 2020.

Release Date:


Download the Full Report
Download the Executive Summary
Download the 2016 Data Brief

The nation has achieved an 82.3 percent high school graduation rate – a record high.

Graduation rates rose for all student subgroups, and the number of low-graduation-rate high schools and students enrolled in them dropped again, indicating that progress has had far-reaching benefits for all students.

This progress, however, has not come without its challenges.

First, this year the nation is slightly off pace to reach a 90 percent on-time graduation rate by 2020.

Second, at both the national and state levels, troubling graduation gaps remain between White students and their Black and Latino peers, low-income and non-low-income students, and students with and without disabilities.

Third, low-graduation-rate high schools – a key focus of the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act – pose a significant roadblock to the national goal of a 90 percent graduation rate for all students. While the number of low-graduation-rate high schools has declined considerably over the past decade, in some states they still predominate.

The 2016 Building a Grad Nation report is the first to analyze 2014 graduation data using new criteria established by ESSA and the first to show the impact of additional time on graduation rates.

If all states were required to report five-year graduation rates, the national high school grad rate would go up about 3 percentage points. If all states were required to report six-year grad rates, the rate would go up an additional point.

The report provides a new national and state-by-state analysis of low-graduation-rate high schools; the number of additional students it will take for the country and each state to reach 90 per-cent; a look at the validity of graduation rates; and policy recommendations for change.

After flat-lining for 30 years, high school graduation rates began to rise in 2002. This steady climb became more accelerated in 2006 and, in 2012, the nation reached an historic milestone, an 80 percent on-time graduation rate.

The upward trend continued through 2014, as the national graduation rate hit another record, 82.3 percent, up more than 10 percentage points since the turn of the century.

When the graduation rate hit 80 percent, we calculated that the national graduation rate would need to increase by roughly 1.2 percentage points per year to achieve 90 percent by the Class of 2020. Between 2013 and 2014, the nation missed this mark, and will now have to average closer to 1.3 percentage points per year to reach the goal.

Moving from percentages to raw numbers, meeting the 90 percent goal would mean graduating 284,591 more students.

To graduate students equitably across all subgroups means focusing on students of color, those with disabilities, English-language learners and students from low-income homes. Despite all the progress, these subgroups still graduate at lower rates than other students.

For more information on subgroup graduation rates, go to the 2016 Building a Grad Nation Data Brief.

At the state level:

  • Iowa became the first state to surpass 90 percent, with a 90.5 percent rate in 2014.
  • 20 other states are on pace to reach a 90 percent graduation rate.
  • Five on-pace states – Nebraska, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Texas and Wisconsin – are within 2 percentage points of the goal.
  • 21 states are currently off track to reach 90 percent by the Class of 2020.

The number of low-graduation-rate schools – defined by ESSA as those enrolling 100 or more students and graduating 67 percent or less of them – has declined considerably, but in some states they still predominate. (Note: Previous reports have focused on high schools with at least 300 students. This calculation, made to align with ESSA, allows a closer look at more rural, charter, alternative and virtual schools.)

  • There are 1,000 large, low-graduation-rate high schools (more than 300 students) nationwide, enrolling 924,000 students, compared to 2,000 in 2002, enrolling 2.6 million students.
  • Vulnerable students are overrepresented in low-graduation-rate high schools. Of the roughly 924,000 in large low-graduation-rate high schools, 65 percent were from low-income families, and 63 percent were Black or Hispanic/Latino.
  • When including high schools with student populations of at least 100 students, there are 2,397 graduation-rate high schools across the nation, enrolling 1.23 million students.
  • Nationwide, 33 percent of all non-graduates in 2014 were enrolled in low-graduation-rate high schools.
  • Though alternative, charter, and virtual schools collectively account for 14 percent of high schools and 8 percent of high school students, they make up 52 percent of low-graduation-rate high schools nationwide and produce 20 percent of non-graduates. Regular district high schools account for 41 percent of low-graduation-rate high schools and are where the majority of students who do not graduate on time can be found.
  • Low-graduation-rate high schools by school types. Out of all low-grad-rate schools in the nation, 41 percent are regular district schools, 28 percent are alternative schools, 26 percent are charter schools and 7 percent are virtual schools. (According to NCES definitions, there is inherent overlap between the alternative, charter, and virtual schools categories, so these numbers do not add up to 100 percent. When looking just at district-operated alternative schools, they make up 23 percent of low-graduation-rate high schools, and when separating virtual schools out from charter schools, the percentage of low-graduation-rate schools that are charter schools falls to 22 percent.)
  • Regular district schools (84% of all high schools). Seven percent (7%) of regular district public schools, or roughly 1,000 schools nationwide, were low-graduation rate high schools. Regular district high schools had an average graduation rate of 85 percent. The number of low-graduation-rate regular district high schools across states ranges from zero in Delaware, Hawaii, and Kentucky to more than 276 in New York and 203 in Florida.
  • Charter schools (8% of all high schools). Now authorized in all but seven states, the of charter schools is rising with mixed results on graduation rates. Thirty percent (30%) of charter schools were low-graduation-rate high schools, while 44 percent had high graduation rates of 85 percent and above. Nationwide, charter schools reported an average graduation rate of 70 percent. Hawaii, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and California have the highest percentages of low-graduation-rate charter high schools.
  • Alternative schools (6% of all high schools). Established to meet the needs of “at risk” students, 57 percent of alternative schools are low-graduation-rate high schools. They have an average graduation rate of 52 percent. Sixty percent (60%) of students at alternative high schools are students of color. In 10 states, including Kentucky, Texas, Washington, Idaho and Iowa, 50 percent or more of low-graduation-rate high schools were alternative schools in 2014. Other states have experienced greater success with alternative schools.
  • Virtual schools (1% of all high schools).Schools offering all instruction online have greatly increased in recent years. Virtual schools were disaggregated in NCES data for the first time in 2013-14. The data shows that 87 percent of virtual schools are low-grad-rate schools with an average graduation rate of 40 percent. States with the highest percentage of non-graduates coming from virtual schools include Ohio, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Rising high school graduation rates have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, as more people question whether the gains are real, whether high school diplomas are a meaningful measure of achievement, and whether high school graduates are adequately prepared for college and careers.

  • The most rapid rise in graduation rates occurred from 2006 to 2014, during an era when states were increasing graduation requirements, including exit and end-of course exams. Thus, graduation rates rose even as it was getting harder to graduate.
  • If standards were being lowered, one would expect ACT and SAT scores to decrease, but scores (and the percentage of SAT-takers who meet the College Board’s College and Career Readiness Standards) remain flat.
  • There is evidence that more students are participating in rigorous coursework. Since 2004, the total number of graduates taking an AP course has risen from 558,993 in 2004 to over 1 million in 2013. The number of students passing at least one AP course has risen in tandem, from 351,647 to 607,505 in 2013.
  • We will have a more comprehensive look at the relationship between high school and college and career readiness in a forthcoming report.

To move the needle to 90 percent by the Class of 2020 and help ensure accuracy in graduation rate reporting, the report includes recommendations, including:

  • Set clear definitions and give graduation rates the weight they deserve in ESSA so that schools and districts are held accountable for graduating traditionally underserved students.
  • Clear up issues of clarity and variability in graduation rate collection and reporting regulations to allow for apples-to-apples comparisons.
  • Create evidence-based plans to improve low-graduation-rate high schools.
  • Require the reporting of extended-year graduation rates. Some students require an additional year or two of high school to earn a diploma. Today 31 states report five-year rates for the Class of 2014. These additional graduates move the national graduation rate from 82.3 percent to greater than 86 percent. And six-year rates, reported in 13 stats, add another percentage point.
  • Ensure that alternative and virtual schools are included in state accountability and improvement systems.
  • Provide real pathways to engage students who have fallen off track. Students who have fallen off track to graduation need the things that all students need to be successful: positive relationships with caring adults, strong and tailored instruction, opportunities to engage in learning experiences that connect school to careers and life beyond, and the support and resources to help them figure out what they want to do once they have earned their diploma. These should be at the core of any school or program, particularly those serving vulnerable student populations.

Released in January, the 2016 Building a Grad Nation Data Brief focused on 2013-14 national and state graduation rate data released by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The brief provides information on graduation gaps at the national and state level for students from low-income families, Black and Hispanic/Latino students, English-language learners and students with disabilities.

The brief also provides State Progress Reports.

Join the conversation about the progress we’re making and the urgent work that remains using the hashtag #GradNation and downloading the partner and community social media guide.

Help spread the word about the 2016 Building a Grad Nation report (just click to launch and edit it in Twitter):

Download the 2016 Building a #GradNation Report by @CivicEnterprise & @JHU_EGC w/ @All4Ed @AmericasPromise

July 11, 2014

Your Use Of Alliance Material On Your Blog

And speaking of those neo-liberals…

I want folks to know that I will no longer be posting material from the Alliance for Excellent Education on this blog (note the e-mail exchange below).  I’m struck by the fact that they didn’t like the publicity, as most others seem to enjoy driving additional traffic to their web presences.  I wonder if it had to do with the fact that I continuously, but accurately, describe them as neo-liberals?  Maybe it was because I regularly question their motives, given what they promote flies in the face of any reliable and valid research that we have about improving student learning?  Maybe it was simply because I’ve questioned whether they are driven by helping their corporate donors profit more as they attempt to privatize public education?  Who knows…

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jason Amos <>
Date: Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 12:16 PM
Subject: Your use of Alliance material on your blog

Dr. Barbour,

While I appreciate your decision to highlight material from our emails on your blog, I would ask that you only use short excerpts and link back to our website rather than simply copying and pasting everything from our emails to your blog.

If you have questions about the use of our material, I’m happy to discuss that with you.


Jason Amos
Vice President of Communications
Alliance for Excellent Education

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Michael Barbour


Given the amount of material I post on my blog, and the fact that I’m an academic, I simply don’t have time to go through and pick out things to highlight. I post these messages in full because it contains all of the links to the material, which in most cases go back to your website. Even though I disagree with the ideological positions your organization takes, I still post these materials because I know there people within the K-12 online learning community that value that material. But in terms of my own time, I have one of two options: either post the messages in their entirety or don’t post them at all. I’ll leave the decision as to which I do up to you.


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jason Amos <>
Date: Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 1:37 PM

Thanks for your response. I certainly appreciate your situation and I hope you can appreciate mine. We cannot allow a third party to copy and paste our content to his or her website or blog. If there’s no middle ground from pasting the messages in their entirety and not posting them at all, then I would ask you stop pasting our material to your blog.


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Michael Barbour
Date: Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Not a problem. I will cease.


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jason Amos <>
Date: Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Thank you.

Just in case you were wondering why this content stopped appearing. Regardless of the fact that I disagree with everything they stand for, I try to pass along anything that might be relevant to those interested in K-12 distance education.

July 7, 2014

WEBINAR INVITATION: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers

From the neo-liberals…

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The Alliance for Excellent Education and the New Teacher Center Invite You to Attend a Webinar

Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers

July 17, 2014
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm EDT

Mariana Haynes, PhD, Senior Fellow, Alliance for Excellent Education
Terry Holliday, PhD, Commissioner of Education,Kentucky Department of Education
Richard Ingersoll, PhD, Professor of Education and Sociology, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania
Ellen Moir, Executive Director, New Teacher Center

Please join the Alliance for Excellent Education and the New Teacher Center for a discussion about meaningful support for the growing number of beginning teachers who are less likely to stay in teaching. Longstanding concerns remain about students’ access to effective teaching as states gear up to implement rigorous college- and career-ready standards. What policies and practices can redress the unevenness in teaching quality within and among U.S. schools, particularly those serving students of color and low-income students?

Panelists will highlight current trends in the teaching workforce, the research on induction programs, and a systems approach to creating supportive teaching and learning conditions. A new Alliance report will be released in conjunction with the webinar—On the Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers—that examines research on teacher turnover and performance and the implications for designing induction supports and professional learning as part of a coherent teacher development system. Panelists will also address questions submitted by viewers from across the county.

Register and submit questions for the webinar at .

Support for this webinar comes from 

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Alliance for Excellent Education
1201 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 901
Washington, DC 20036

July 4, 2014

What’s New at the Alliance: Video for TALIS Webinar; Adolescent Literacy Update; Common Core & More

And what would any day be without something from the neo-liberals – touting their brand of how to profit from the public purse…


What’s New at the Alliance

Follow the Alliance:



I. Archived Events and Webinars (video available for all) Results of the OECD’s 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (June 27, 2014)
American teachers participated for the first time in the 2013 round of Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which focuses on teachers’ professional context and the conditions of the learning environment in which they teach. In this webinar, the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher shares the TALIS findings and Stephanie Hirsh of Learning Forward discusses the implications for improving teaching effectiveness in the United States and the efforts under way to create powerful professional learning systems.

Webinar: State Digital Learning Legislation: Recent Trends and Future Implications (June 24, 2014)
This webinar focuses on state digital learning legislative activities, implications of recent policy changes, and developing trends in legislation. Stephen Bowen from the Council of Chief State School Officers and Sunny Deye from the National Conference of State Legislatures are joined by the Alliance’s Tom Murray to share insight into how these policies and laws could impact digital learning in states and school districts across the nation.

Webinar: Accelerating Blended Learning (June 25, 2014)
Blended learning combines traditional face-to-face instruction, usually offered by a teacher in a traditional school building with high-quality digital content, including online instruction and other technological tools. In this webinar moderated by Chip Slaven of the Alliance, Scott Ellis, The Learning Accelerator’s (TLA’s) chief executive officer shares the organization’s story and broad national vision and efforts in school districts around the country.

II. Publications

DigitalInfrastructureCover Creating Anytime, Anywhere Learning for All Students: Key Elements of a Comprehensive Digital Infrastructure (June 23, 2014)
While connecting the nation’s schools and libraries to the internet by modernizing and expanding the federal E-rate program currently dominates education technology efforts, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education urges that adequate broadband access be accompanied by a comprehensive “digital infrastructure” that unlocks the potential technology to enhance student learning. This report adopts a broader definition of digital infrastructure that includes professional learning, changes in pedagogy, parent and community engagement, and assessment and data systems.

Adolescent Literacy Fact Sheet (updated) (June 19, 2014)
This updated fact sheet makes a case for comprehensive federal and state initiatives and investments to improve reading and writing skills of adolescent learners across the nation.

III. Media Highlights and Op-eds

June 12, 2014
Common Core Proponents Were Motivated by Inadequate State Standards, Not Gates Money, an op-ed by Bob Wise Huffington Post
The June 8 Washington Post article on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s role in supporting the adoption of the Common Core State Standards was like watching someone recalling a piece of classical music: they hum a few bars of memorable music, but miss the overall symphony. The Post account missed most of the concert by ignoring the basic issue: why are new standards necessary?

June 23, 2014
Gov. Bob Wise featured on Bloomberg EDU, discusses Common Core State Standards and Digital LearningBloomberg EDU
Last weekend, Alliance President Bob Wise appeared on Bloomberg EDU June 20 with host Jane Stoddard Williams to discuss the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), digital learning, and the state of the teacher profession in the United States. Hear Wise’s appearance on Bloomberg EDU in its entirety.

June 19, 2014
Two Ed Tech Recognitions for Alliance’s Governor Bob WisePress Release
Wise Named “Big 10” Leader in Digital Learning and Joins Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International Board of Governors
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, the Alliance for Excellent Education announced that Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia, has been recognized by Tech & Learning and the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International for his efforts toward effective implementation of technology and digital learning in the nation’s high schools. Wise has been at the forefront of the movement for years as a continuous proponent for advancing technology use in the classroom and reforming high school education.

June 30, 2014
Congress Urged to Update Student Data Privacy Law Government Technology
Regardless of whether new legislation comes through at the state and federal level, policies should not throw away the opportunity to use cloud-based tools to help students learn for the sake of privacy, said Thomas Murray, state and district digital learning policy and advocacy director for the Alliance for Excellent Education. Rather, they should hold student privacy to high standards while using technology.

June 30, 2014
Gov. Bob Wise comments to Northwest Arkansas News on Common Core State Standards NWAOnline
Former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, a leading supporter of Common Core from the beginning, said the standards were written under the umbrella of the governors association and the council of school officers. Neither the governors organization nor the school officers group has ties to the federal Education Department except as watchdogs, Wise said. He added last week the talk of uniform standards began nearly 30 years ago when George H.W. Bush was president. “Common Core came out of the states coming together,” Wise said.

June 26, 2014
Ed Tech Leaders Testify in Congressional Hearing on Student Data Privacyt|h|e Journal
Wednesday morning in Washington, DC, two Ed Tech leaders testified before a joint congressional hearing on student data and privacy. Speaking to the U.S. House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and the U.S. Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies, Mark MacCarthy and Thomas C. Murray both highlighted the educational benefits of student data and urged Congress to be cautious in considering any new legislation.

June 26, 2014
Federal Lawmakers Probe Contracts, Laws on Student Data Privacy Education Week
On Wednesday, in testimony before a joint congressional hearing on student data and privacy, Thomas C. Murray, state and district digital learning director at the Alliance for Excellent Education, spoke to the value of educational data for modern learning. Check out what Murray and others who testified had to say about student data privacy.

June 01, 2014
BYOD Success Stories: Technologies, Policies and Strategies Early Adopters Use to Transform Their Districts DA District Administration
While the model of bringing in your own device began decades ago with the push for students to use their own calculators in class, the concept of students using their personal phones, tablets and computers in class took off in 2008, according to Sara Hall, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s vice president of digital learning. It has only been growing in popularity since.

IV. “High School Soup” Highlights (Alliance blog)

June 8, 2014
A Coalition, Not an Individual, Pulled off the Common Core Revolution
Robert Rothman, senior fellow
I was dismayed, but not surprised, to see the headline on today’s front page of the Washington Post: “How Bill Gates pulled off the Common Core revolution.” Not surprising: for years, critics have charged that the Common Core State Standards was a conspiracy led by the former chairman of Microsoft. But dismaying, because it isn’t true.

June 17, 2014
Core of the Matter: Parents Hold the Key to Success for Common Core State Standards
Guest blog by Delia Pompa, senior vice president for programs, National Council of La Raza
It’s the time of year that millions of students look forward to: donning caps and gowns and walking in their high school graduation ceremonies, cheered on by friends and families. One of our community’s proudest accomplishments in the last decade is that so many more of these students are Latino. However, a diploma does not guarantee that they are ready for college or a career. That is why closing the educational gap between Latino students and their fellow classmates continues to be the top educational priority for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

June 3, 2014
Core of the Matter: What Students Want and Need from Their Communities: High Expectations, Support, and Accountability
Tina Dove, senior policy associate
When a young, African American man—speaking as a panelist at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Summit at Jackson State University in April 2014—was asked what young men of color need from their community in order to be successful in life, he replied, “Have high expectations for us, give us the support we need to meet those expectations, and hold us accountable.” For me, his words resonated as clearly as a bell. Often times, we adults don’t believe that our young people want to be pushed harder. But here, sitting among five other young men, this scholar asked us to go against our conventional wisdom and demand more of him and his peers.

June 18, 2014
Great Expectations: How Can the Higher Education Act Support the Development of Well-Prepared and Effective Teachers?
Jessica Cardichon, senior director of policy and advocacy for high school reform
As states continue the process of implementing higher standards for students, so too must they implement higher standards for what is expected of teachers. Teaching is a complex profession that requires an extensive and diverse set of skills. Teachers must create classroom environments that are respectful, well-managed, nurturing, engaging, and provide all students with ongoing opportunities to develop the skills needed for success in college and career. This is no small undertaking.

June 27, 2014
Deeper Learning Digest: New Book Takes Readers into Schools Transforming the Experience of Learning
Ariana Witt, communications associate
Deeper Learning: How Eight Innovative Public Schools Are Transforming Education in the Twenty-First Century,” a new book by education strategist Monica Martinez takes readers inside eight schools that are redefining the learning experience for students who share the urgent desire to thrive in the college and career worlds. Co-authored with sociologist Dennis McGrath, Deeper Learning highlights schools and practices meant to empower both the student and the educator.

V. New Faces at the Alliance

Ariana Witt joined the Alliance as a communications associate in June 2014. Prior to joining the Alliance, Ms. Witt was the STEM programs and social media intern for the American Association of University Women (AAUW). In this role, she helped the organization advocate for getting more young girls interested in careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Ms. Witt also worked as a higher education reporter and editor at the Daily Iowan newspaper in Iowa City, Iowa where she reported on education-related issues, such as state appropriations and student loan debt. She also spent time at the testing company ACT, Inc. as an essay scorer for assessment tests such as the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and high school field tests administered throughout the United States.Ms. Witt graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA degree in journalism and mass communications and a BA degree in psychology.

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Alliance for Excellent Education
1201 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 901
Washington, DC 20036

June 26, 2014

What’s New: Data & Privacy; Digital Infrastructure; E-Rate Concerns

From the neo-liberals yesterday…


Congressional hearing, new report on student data and privacy

Across the country, the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the focus on personalized learning for all students is providing a game-changing moment to better leverage the potential of student data. In advance of a congressional hearing this morning on student data and privacy, the Alliance for Excellent Education released a new report on the use of student data to improve teaching and learning. Read more>>

Key elements of a digital infrastructure

Traditionally, when educators think about digital infrastructure they see only computers, wires, and high-speed internet connections. A new report by the Alliance for Excellent Education suggests that education leaders must use a broader definition of “digital infrastructure” that also includes professional learning supports, instructional shifts, community engagement, and assessment and data systems to unlock the potential of broadband and technology.  Read more>>

Will changes to E-Rate leave school websites in the dust?

Today, websites are one of the most important ways that schools communicate with parents and the community. As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to deliberate on the future of E-Rate—a program that provides financial support to schools and libraries for broadband and other communication-related services—some groups have expressed concern that modernization efforts may result in the reduction or elimination of crucial funding for school websites. Given that they are such a necessity, a reduction in funding for school websites may put even more of a strain on tight technology budgets. Learn more about how you can take action to help protect funding for school websites by contacting your Congressional representatives and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Read more>>
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