Virtual School Meanderings

July 21, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 18: According To Agora Cyber Charter’s 2013 IRS Filing, It Paid $69.5 Million That Year To K12, Inc.

This was forwarded to me by a colleague…

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PA Ed Policy Roundup July 18, 2016:

According to Agora Cyber Charter’s 2013 IRS filing, it paid $69.5 million that year to K12, Inc.

Apply Now for EPLC’s 2016-2017 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!

Districts’ only link to cyber charters: Money

Each one pays its own per-pupil charter rate, but oversight of the online schools is solely Pennsylvania’s responsibility.

The notebook by Melanie Bavaria June 7, 2016 — 10:45am

Only a small percentage of U.S. children attend school completely online, but the population that online schools serve has increased dramatically over the last few years and it is projected to continue to climb. In some states, the online charter school industry has seen exponential growth in recent years.  Nationally, about 200 cyber charter schools serve 200,000 students, according to a series of reports published in October by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Mathematica Policy Research, and the Center for Reinventing Public Education.  As the state with the second-highest cyber charter enrollment, Pennsylvania has 17 percent of the national cyber charter school population, or 35,000 students.

Dismal academic records

However, most of Pennsylvania’s cyber schools have shown consistently dismal academic records. According to the state’s School Performance Profile website, only three — 21st Century, PA Cyber, and PA Virtual — had an SPP score above 60. The state considers 60 and below to be substandard.  None scored higher than 70, which is the state’s minimum goal for all schools, and some scored in the 30s.  A national report on graduation-rate trends in both virtual and brick-and-mortar high schools showed that although overall rates are increasing, 87 percent of virtual schools nationwide have an adjusted cohort graduation rate of below 67 percent, the federal cutoff point for a “low graduation rate high school.”

In fact, the average graduation rate for virtual schools is 40 percent.

Blogger note: this is a great collection of articles on various aspects of Pennsylvania school funding.

Pennsylvania’s School Funding Crisis

 The notebook July 5, 2016 — 4:55pm

This edition’s reporting on Pennsylvania’s education funding was published as part of a collaboration between WHYY Newsworks’ Keystone Crossroads statewide public media project and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. The collaboration is supported by a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation.

Pennsylvania school district consolidation study eyes savings

Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Sunday, July 17, 2016 6:00 am

As co-chairman of the bipartisan commission that helped implement a new education funding formula, state Rep. Mike Vereb believes there’s a way to save money that flows into education.

It has to do with cutting down on the number of school districts and their “financial inefficiencies and duplication of services.”  Specifically, that involves slicing the number of school districts from 500 to 67 and saving on administrative costs.  “I want to look at the top,” said Vereb, R-150, a Montgomery County lawmaker who represents the Collegeville area. “We spend so much time focusing on the teacher, and I’m all for that, but there’s got to be a look at the administrators. You’ve got a superintendent, an assistant superintendent, an assistant to the assistant superintendent. I think we need to be fair and look at all levels of public education.”

Did you catch our weekend postings?

PA Ed Policy Weekend Roundup July 17, 2016:

120 American Charter Schools and One Secretive Turkish Cleric

Once again, Pa. settles for quick-fix budget | Editorial

Editorial By Express-Times opinion staff  on July 17, 2016 at 6:00 AM

Pennsylvania’s budget drama was a relatively painless two-act play this year — an on-time adoption by June 30, followed by Wednesday’s action to close a $1.4 billion deficit in the spending plan. After last year’s nine-month standoff, 13 days of post-deadline debate in July seems like … a functional government.  To the extent that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leadersrealized the limits of irreconcilable strategies, this budget is a winning proposition, helped along by the encroachment of November elections. After Wolf retreated from his insistence on raising the state income tax or sales tax to boost funding for schools and address a structural budget deficit, he allowed the budget to become law without his signature. Then he left it to House and Senate leaders to assemble a stocking of deficit-fillers.

The result is a one-year, stop-gap plan at best. The centerpiece is a $1-a-pack increase in the state cigarette tax (boosting it to $2.60), along with a 55-cent per-ounce tax on smokeless tobacco and a 40 percent wholesale tax on electronic cigarettes. (Once again, the state’s cigar lobby dodged a bullet.)

Report: Area school district reserves often too low

Times Leader By Mark Guydish – Click for more information on Mark – @TLMarkGuydish – 570-991-6112 JULY 17TH, 2016 – 4:27 PM – UPDATED: JULY 17TH, 2016 – 5:30 PM.

A new report argues that school districts statewide may appear to have healthy fund balances, but that a closer look shows most — including eight of 11 in Luzerne County — have reserves below what most experts recommend as a minimum level.  Released by the Center on Regional Politics at Temple University, the report used state data to distinguish between district reserves that are restricted and those that are “unassigned.” While some district may have healthy-looking reserves, much of the money is often set aside for things like construction costs.  The analysis, done by David Davare of the Pennsylvania Economy League noted, that during the nine-month budget battle in Harrisburg from July of last year into March of this year, critics contended Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts were collectively sitting on about $4.7 billion in reserves even as many insisted they would have to close without state money.

Here’s the report referenced above…

PA School Districts’ Fund Balances: An Update

Center on Regional Politics at Temple University July 6, 2016

A policy brief published by the Center on Regional Politics in July 2016 provides data on the status of fund balances for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts at the close of fiscal year 2014-15. The data shows that total reserve funds for districts, charter schools and technical schools have increased by about $400 million since 2012-2013, from $4.3 billion to $4.7 billion. But only six of the 500 school districts have unassigned fund balances equal to or larger than their state subsidy.

“Over the last five years, the number of school-age children in the Lehigh Valley has shrunk by 4.6 percent, but the number of Hispanic children in that population has increased by 15.6 percent. School districts will need to find ways to connect with the Latino population as their numbers grow.”

As Latino population grows, school districts search for new ways to help student succeed

Sarah M. Wojcik  Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call July 17, 2016

Lehigh Valley school districts searching for ways to help growing Hispanic population succeed

There’s one common thread among the immigrant parents that math teacher Christa Wolak has met with during her five years at Allentown’s Newcomer Academy: They care — a lot.  The vast majority of students at the special Allentown School District facility, a school dedicated to preparing non-English speaking students for public education, are Latino. And Wolak said the school’s staff has learned that engaging the entire family is an essential part of helping each student succeed.  From movie nights to sprawling holiday feasts, the east Allentown school, serving students from seventh to 12th grades, has taken an already unique program to the next level by going beyond the classroom.  “Of the families I meet with at Newcomer, rarely do I find the parents don’t care,” she said. “I see families pleased and grateful and thankful that their children are getting a good education.”  It’s an educational philosophy that could prove essential for more and more districts as an increasing number of Latino children fill classrooms across the Lehigh Valley.

Lawsuit brewing over refugee education in Lancaster


About 17,000 school-aged refugees move to the U.S. in an average year, an estimate that’s a few years old and likely growing along with overall resettlement activity.  But no one is tracking how young refugees fare in school here.  Georgetown University released a study earlier this year looking at education access by students with limited English proficiency.  It focused on undocumented immigrants.  But researcher Zenandeh Booi says some trends apply to refugees; specifically, schools discouraging or denying enrollment, particularly to older children, and failing to provide translation when communicating with families.  “It could be, in some cases, a lack of resources to adequately accommodate these kids. And in some other instances, it’s, essentially, they don’t want these kids in their schools,” Booi says. “So, to a large extent, districts are dealing with a lot in trying to accommodate these kids. But at the same time, it can’t be used for a reason why you completely exclude a child from being able to access education.”  Actually, federal law prohibits it. But it’s happening anyway, as documented by the Georgetown study and lawsuits in multiple states.  Several school districts in New York settled related lawsuits this spring, just before another was filed in Florida.  And one Pennsylvania district is next.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania’s filing a lawsuit this week against the public school district in the city of Lancaster, long known as a hub for refugee resettlement.

Pages on Pedals offers a vital service to children in Lancaster city

Lancaster Online The LNP Editorial Board July 18, 2016

THE ISSUE: In June, The Mix at Arbor Place collaborated with The Common Wheel to organize Pages on Pedals, a program in which volunteers brought books via bicycles to local children. The program reached 100 kids in Lancaster city, and will return next year.

For some kids, getting a new book during the summer is similar to getting a present under the tree in December.  Just ask 9-year-old Jaqaya Smith.  Jaqaya would set an alarm to greet Pages on Pedals volunteers who brought books once a week to her Lancaster city home, her mother said.  The girl unlocked the screen door so she could hear them knocking on the front door.

After a few knocks, Smith and her brother greeted the bicyclists on their porch, both itching to find out which book they would receive.  It was Christmas in June. Minus the milk and cookies, Santa and snow.  The Mix at Arbor Place and The Common Wheel deserve much credit.  Studies show that kids, especially low-income students, are at great risk of falling into a “summer slide.”

Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that during the summer, low-income students often lose two to three months of learning, particularly in reading.

The Republican National Convention and Education: What to Watch For

Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on July 17, 2016 4:45 PM

Cleveland – The Republican National Convention kicks off July 18 and culminates with the nomination of the party’s candidate on July 21. And both halves of Politics K-12 are in Cleveland. We will be blogging, tweeting, taking video, interviewing folks with a connection to K-12, and giving you breaking analysis of how education is playing out here.  So what should you be watching for this week?The list of speakers includes some folks with a background on K-12 policy, like Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, and some not so much, like pro-golfer Natalie Gulbis or Tiffany Trump, the daughter of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.  K-12 education has played fifth-fiddle to pretty much every issue this election cycle, and even long-time Washington hands are stumped as to where Trump might go on the issue.  But here are five speakers who might give us a sense of where the party’s heart is:

“Charter schools in the U.S. also have raised questions about possible ties to Gulen. A loosely affiliated group of Turkish educators organized about 100 publicly funded schools in 25 states with as many as 35,000 students, according to a 2010 investigation by USA TODAY. The schools have recruited thousands of teachers from Turkey.”

Turkish exile sparks questions about Congress travel, charter schools

 Bart Jansen, USA TODAY8:38 p.m. EDT July 17, 2016

WASHINGTON – The Muslim cleric who is accused of organizing the attempted coup in Turkey also has sparked questions about the motivation behind congressional travel and charter schools in the U.S.  Fethullah Gulen, 75, lives in exile in rural Pennsylvania. But Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan contends Gulen was behind the attempted coup Friday that left hundreds dead and 6,000 detained, and has demanded Gulen’s extradition.

Fethullah Gulen: The Islamic scholar Turkey blames for the failed coup

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 16

The man that Turkey’s leaders have blamed for a failed coup attempt by a group of army officers is an Islamic scholar named Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and who has inspired a network said to include more than 160 charter schools in the United States.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that the coup attempt Friday was the work of army officers who are followers of Gulen, who had once been an ally but whose movement has become critical of the increasingly authoritarian regime.  The Gulen movement denied involvement in the coup, but Secretary of State John F. Kerryon Saturday was quoted as saying the United States would support investigations to determine who instigated the attempted coup and where its support originates. He said he anticipates questions will be raised about Gulen.

PSBA 2016-17 Budget Update JUL 22, 201611:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Please join PSBA’s Assistant Executive Director of Public Policy and Chief Lobbyist John Callahan for an in-depth dive into Pennsylvania’s budget. In this complimentary member webinar, see what is behind the numbers, get the trends and analysis for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Find out what is in the school code and policy changes to come. Participate in a question and answer period.  Register online with PSBA’s webinar host GoToWebinar at

Apply Now for EPLC’s 2016-2017 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!

Education Policy and Leadership Center

Applications are available now for the 2016-2017 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Click here for the program calendar of sessions.  With nearly 500 graduates in its first seventeen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders. Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.

The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 15-16, 2016 and continues to graduation in June 2017. Click here to read more about the Education Policy Fellowship Program, or here to see the 2016-2017 program calendar.

Applications are being accepted now.

Appointment of Voting Delegates for the October 15th PSBA Delegate Assembly Meeting

PSBA Website June 27, 2016

The governing body boards of all member school entities are entitled to appoint voting delegates to participate in the PSBA Delegate Assembly to be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. It is important that school boards act soon to appoint its delegate or delegates, and to notify PSBA of the appointment.

Voting members of the Delegate Assembly will:

  1. Consider and act upon proposed changes to the PSBA Bylaws.
  2. Receive reports from the PSBA president, executive director and treasurer.
  3. Receive the results of the election for officers and at-large representatives. (Voting upon candidates by school boards and electronic submission of each board’s votes will occur during the month of September 2016.)
  4. Consider proposals recommended by the PSBA Platform Committee and adopt the legislative platform for the coming year.
  5. Conduct other Association business as required or permitted in the Bylaws, policies or a duly adopted order of business.

The 2016 Delegate Assembly will meet on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the conclusion of the regularly scheduled events of the main PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College

Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association – PA Association of School Administrators – PA Association of Middle Level Educators – PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 

The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in “Happy Valley.”

Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have… Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted “early bird” registration rate:

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly

Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

Lawrence A. Feinberg
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July 13, 2016

EDTECH537 – Discussion Entry: K12 Inc. Reaches $2.5 Million Settlement with State of California with Resolution of All Claims, No Admission of Liability or Wrongdoing, No Fines or Penalties

As I mentioned in the EDTECH537 – Week 3 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course, I wanted to post a sample of a discussion entry.

So the item below scrolled through my inbox this past week.  It was interesting to read that once again K12, Inc. – the company behind [insert state name] Virtual Academies all across the country has decided to settle a case, but admit no liability or wrongdoing and receive no fine or penalty.  Time and time again, this company, which lobbies to open their full-time cyber charter schools all across the country to rape and pillage public education, all the while producing horrible results for their students.  A company that has been found to outsource its grading overseas, lying to shareholders, falsifying teacher records to meet state mandates about highly qualified teachers, etc. – and in each case the company has either settled or there hasn’t been enough information to find the company guilty.

Given these realities, in particular the fact that these full-time cyber charter schools provide a poor quality education for the majority of their students, why do states and state legislators continue to approved and promote this form of learning?

K12 Inc. Reaches $2.5 Million Settlement with State of California with Resolution of All Claims, No Admission of Liability or Wrongdoing, No Fines or Penalties

K12 and the CAVA schools continue to serve families across California

HERNDON, Va., July 08, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — K12 Inc. (LRN), today announced that it has reached a $2.5 million settlement with the State of California, bringing to an end a lengthy investigation of K12 conducted by the Office of Attorney General Kamala Harris.   K12 will also contribute $6.0 million toward the Attorney General’s investigative costs.  The settlement with the state includes no finding or admission of liability or wrongdoing by K12 or by the public, non-profit California Virtual Academies (CAVAs) managed under contracts by K12.

“The Attorney General’s claim of $168.5 million in today’s announcement is flat wrong,” said Stuart Udell, K12’s Chief Executive Officer.  “Despite our full cooperation throughout the process, the Office of the Attorney General grossly mischaracterized the value of the settlement just as it did with regard to the issues it investigated.  There is no ‘debt relief’ to the CAVA schools.  The balance budget credits essentially act as subsidies to protect the CAVA schools, its students and teachers against financial uncertainties.  CAVA schools have not paid that money to K12 and K12 never expected to receive it given California’s funding environment.”

“K12 never accrued these balance budget credits on its financial statements, and the CAVA schools similarly never incurred financial statement liabilities,” Udell added.

In the final judgment announced today, K12 and the CAVA schools agreed to improve, or in some cases accelerate, a number of planned and ongoing academic and business program initiatives. In addition, on a number of issues, K12 and the CAVA schools agreed to implement new policies and procedures that go well above and beyond current independent study and charter school laws and regulations.

The settlement with the state resolves both K12 and CAVA’s participation in the investigation by the California Department of Justice into an industry-wide probe of “for-profit virtual schools,” and a separate private lawsuit alleging misreporting of attendance at the CAVA schools.   As part of the settlement, K12 will reimburse the state for the costs of the Attorney General’s lengthy investigation, and take certain steps to ensure that students who enroll in the CAVA schools can succeed academically.  These changes will further the CAVA schools and K12 as industry leaders.

“The CAVA boards have led the charge to ensure the California Virtual Academies are well run and governed,” Udell added. “They have been supportive of the efforts to vigorously defend their schools and provide choice for the families of California.”

Today’s agreement with the state recognizes that K12 will be strengthening its support for the non-profit public schools where the company provides management services.  It provides for timetables and action by K12 and the CAVA schools to improve the customer experience, provide additional information and data to families, and improve the training of corporate and school staff.

Among the provisions in the agreement are new requirements for the student attendance reporting process that exceed those found in current law. Other actions specified in the final judgement include: offering the opportunity for parents to request counseling sessions prior to student start dates to discuss the benefits and challenges of learning in a virtual school environment; adopting policies and conducting trainings for staff related to the services available for limited English proficient students and families; providing timely updates to data related to parent satisfaction and academic performance; continuing progress already made to ensure that the schools’ learning environment is accessible for students with disabilities; and, working with an independent, third-party expert to review and enhance K12’s special education policies.

Udell also detailed the financial portion of the settlement, which involves no fines or penalties.

K12 will be making an $8.5 million payment to the state. Of that amount, $6.0 million is to defray the cost to taxpayers of the Attorney General’s investigation, and $2.5M are settlement costs related to the separate private lawsuit alleging misreporting of attendance at the CAVA schools.

In addition, K12 and the CAVA schools will implement a series of conduct provisions, most of which K12 had planned on investing in over the next three years.  These include accessibility improvements in the company’s curriculum and technology platform. Udell pointed out that these investments would have been made by the Company in the ordinary course of compliance and product and service enhancements to improve the student experience regardless of the Attorney General’s actions.

“Opponents of K12 and skeptics of public online education have spent years making wild, attention-grabbing charges about us and our business,” said Udell. “The State of California used the full authority and investigative resources of the Office of the Attorney General to investigate these charges for over eight months.  In the end, we demonstrated industry leading levels of service and compliance with regulations and benefits to families.   There is a reason families keep coming to our programs and it’s because we are committed to deliver valuable education services within the laws and rules of every state.”

Conference Call

The Company will hold a conference call for investors and analysts on Monday, July 11, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. eastern time (ET) to discuss the Settlement Agreement.

To participate in the live call, investors and analysts should dial (877) 407-4019 (domestic) or (201) 689-8337 (international) at 8:15 a.m. (ET). No passcode is required.

A replay of the call will be available starting on July 11, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. ET through August 11, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. ET, at (877) 660-6853 (domestic) or (201) 612-7415 (international) using conference ID 13641198.

Special Note on Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. We have tried, whenever possible, to identify these forward-looking statements using words such as “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “continues,” “likely,” “may,” “opportunity,” “potential,” “projects,” “will,” “expects,” “plans,” “intends” and similar expressions to identify forward looking statements, whether in the negative or the affirmative. These statements reflect our current beliefs and are based upon information currently available to us. Accordingly, such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which could cause our actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, such statements. These risks, uncertainties, factors and contingencies include, but are not limited to: reduction of per pupil funding amounts at the schools we serve; inability to achieve sufficient levels of new enrollments to sustain or to grow our business model; failure of the schools we serve to comply with regulations resulting in a loss of funding or an obligation to repay funds previously received; declines or variations in academic performance outcomes as curriculum and testing standards evolve; harm to our reputation resulting from poor performance or misconduct by operators or us in any school in our industry and in any school in which we operate; legal and regulatory challenges from opponents of virtual public education, public charter schools or for-profit education companies; discrepancies in interpretation of legislation by regulatory agencies that may lead to payment or funding disputes; termination of our contracts with schools due to a loss of authorizing charter; failure to enter into new school contracts or renew existing contracts, in part or in their entirety; unsuccessful integration of mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures; failure to further develop, maintain and enhance our technology, products, services and brands; inadequate recruiting, training and retention of effective teachers and employees; infringement  of our intellectual property; non-compliance with laws and regulations related to operating schools in a foreign jurisdiction; entry of new competitors with superior competitive technologies and lower prices; and other risks and uncertainties associated with our business described in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although the Company believes the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions, it can give no assurance that the expectations will be attained or that any deviation will not be material. All information in this release is as of July 8, 2016, and the Company undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement to conform the statement to actual results or changes in the Company’s expectations.

About K12 Inc.

K12 Inc. (LRN) is driving innovation and advancing the quality of education by delivering state-of-the-art, digital learning platforms and technology to students and school districts across the globe. K12’s award winning curriculum serves over 2,000 schools and school districts and has delivered more than four million courses over the past decade. K12 is a company of educators with the nation’s largest network of K-12 online school teachers, providing instruction, academic services, and learning solutions to public schools and districts, traditional classrooms, blended school programs, and directly to families. The K12 program is offered through K12 partner public schools in 33 states and the District of Columbia, and through school districts and public and private schools serving students in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.  More information can be found at

K12 Inc.
Investor and Press Contact:
Mike Kraft, 571-353-7778
VP Finance & Communications

June 21, 2016

Report – A Call To Action To Improve The Quality Of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools

So last week there was a report released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now entitled:

A Call To Action To Improve The Quality Of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools

In reading the news items that I have seen about this report thus far, it seems that these charter school lobby organizations came to the conclusion that full-time virtual charter schools were not providing a quality education following the CREDO report this past Fall.  I find this funny, consider that the annual NEPC virtual schooling reports since 2013 have found the same thing – granted, so have legislative audits and the work of investigative journalists going back to 2006.

Maybe if charter school advocates could get past the fact of where the funding for organizations like the NEPC come from – or, alternatively, consider where the funding for the reports that support their foregone conclusions generally come from…  Oh what a wonderful world it would be…

Anyway, some of the news items that I have seen on these reports include:

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

April 22, 2016

4th Annual Virtual Schools Report

From Thursday’s inbox…

April 20, 2016

Gary Miron, (269) 387-3883,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

4th Annual Virtual Schools Report

Online schools continue to grow, struggle

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 20, 2016) — The Virtual Schools Report 2016: Directory and Performance Review report is the fourth in an annual series of research briefs on the fast-growing U.S. virtual school sector. This year’s report provides a comprehensive directory of the nation’s full-time virtual and blended learning providers.

The report finds little research has examined the inner workings of these schools. Also, the report finds that students attending these schools differ from those in traditional public schools, and the school outcomes are consistently below traditional public schools.

Gary Miron, professor of evaluation, measurement, and research at Western Michigan University, and Charisse Gulosino, assistant professor of leadership and policy studies at the University of Memphis are the authors of this year’s report. Alex Molnar, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, provides a foreword to the report.

This report provides a detailed census of full-time virtual and blended schools, including student demographics, state-specific school performance ratings, and a comparison of virtual school outcomes with state norms.

Based on the findings, the authors make several recommendations, including:

  • Policymakers should slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual and blended schools until their relatively poor performance have been identified and addressed;
  • States should seek to understand why virtual and blended schools perform weakly, and how their performance can be improved;
  • Virtual and blended schools should be held to the same standards as other publicly funded schools;
  • Policymakers should require virtual schools devote more resources to instruction;
  • State agencies should ensure that virtual and blended schools fully report data related to the population of students they serve and the teachers they employ;
  • State and federal policymakers should promote efforts to design new outcome measures, which capture the unique characteristics of virtual and blended schools;
  • More research should be supported to understand policy options for funding and accountability mechanisms, and to increase our understanding of the inner workings of virtual and blended schools.

Find the report on the web:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) produced the report with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education, Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develp reasearch-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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