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Deborah L. Jonas, Ph.D. Virginia Department of Education Thomas M. Brewster, Ed.D. Virginia Board of Education Assistant Superintendent for Administration Pulaski County Public Schools Presentation at the Virginia Dropout Prevention Summit October 28, 2008.

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Graduation rates state policies and state resources for taking action l.jpg

Deborah L. Jonas, Ph.D.

Virginia Department of Education

Thomas M. Brewster, Ed.D.

Virginia Board of Education

Assistant Superintendent for Administration Pulaski County Public Schools

Presentation at the Virginia Dropout Prevention Summit

October 28, 2008

Graduation Rates, State Policies, and State Resources for Taking action

Overview l.jpg

  • Graduation rate data

    • Background information on graduation rates in VA

    • Legislative and regulatory context for new graduation rate and future reporting

    • Results

    • Calculating Virginia’s On-Time Graduation Rate

  • Proposed Policies

    • Graduation and completion index

    • Personal learning plans for middle school students

  • Consequences and solutions for communities

  • Virginia Department of Education resources

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Background: Graduation rates

  • Historically, Virginia’s state-published graduation rates were estimates.

  • Estimates have flaws that impact reliability. Some questions:

    • Are they based on a cohort of students?

    • Do they account for student transfers?

    • Do 9th grade retention practices bias the rate?

    • Does the rate accurately reflect all five of Virginia’s Board of Education approved diplomas?

  • Reliability drops with smaller groups of students.

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Legislative and regulatory context for change

  • General Assembly 2006:

    • House Bill 19 required the Board of Education to prescribe a uniform formula to assess high school graduation rates.

  • November 2006:

    • BOE defined a cohort graduation rate for Virginia.

    • Report to the General Assembly stated that the cohort graduation rate would be reported for the first time in the fall of 2008.

  • October 2008: DOE reported the Virginia On-Time Graduation Rate

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On-time graduates in year x

[First-time entering 9th graders in year x-4) +

(transfers in) – (transfers out and deceased)]

Virginia’s On-Time Graduation Rate

BOE-approved formula

  • Graduates are students who earn one of five BOE-approved diplomas.

  • Special education students and English language learners who have plans in place are assigned to cohorts based on when they exit school.

  • Deceased students are counted as transfers-out in the denominator.

  • Incarcerated students are counted as transfers as they leave and re-enter the system.

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Other legislative and regulatory activities

  • General Assembly 2007

    • SJR 329 required further study of graduation and dropout rates, with focus on dropout rates.

    • Board of Education recommended that DOE report:

      • Annual dropout rates for grades 7-12 and grades 9-12.

      • A cohort dropout rate based on the on-time graduation rate formula.

      • All in the context of graduation and completion rates.

  • General Assembly 2008

    • Commission on Youth* requested to study truancy and school dropout prevention.

    • Commission on Youth also is continuing its work on alternative education programs.

*The Virginia Commission on Youth provides a bipartisan forum for complex issues related to youth and family. The Commission on Youth is composed of nine members of the General Assembly and three citizens appointed by the Governor.

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Proposed Policy to Address Graduation Rates

  • In January 2008, the Virginia Board of Education proposed the inclusion of a Graduation and Completion Index in the State Standards of Accreditation

  • Standards of Accreditation (8 VAC 20-131-10):

    • Provide an essential foundation of educational programs of high quality in all schools for all students.

    • Encourage continuous appraisal and improvement of the school program for the purpose of raising student achievement.

    • Foster public confidence.

    • Assure recognition of Virginia's public schools by other institutions of learning.

    • Establish a means of determining the effectiveness of schools.

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Proposed policy

  • Requires schools with a 12th grade to meet the current pass-rate standards and a prescribed threshold on a weighted graduation and completion index (GCI).

  • The GCI is a weighted percent of the students within a given cohort who graduate, complete, or stay in school each year.

  • The proposed index awards points according to student status:

    • Graduate with a diploma: 100 points (however long it takes)

    • Earn a GED certificate: 75 points

    • Remain in school beyond expected cohort graduation year: 70 points

    • Earn a certificate of completion: 60 points

  • Public comment period ends November 5, 2008.

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Some considerations

  • Incorporates incentives for schools to continue to support students who require more than four years to graduate.

  • Incorporates alternative credentials (e.g., the GED) at a lower weightings than a full BOE-approved diploma.

  • Adds a minimum bar for schools with a graduating class.

  • Schools that do not meet or exceed the minimum GCI standard will be subject to state intervention until such time as the school meets or exceeds the standard.

  • Accounts for the status of all high school students.

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Proposed policy for academic career plan

  • I believe such a plan can help students who may be at risk of not graduating by reinforcing the expectations well ahead of their senior year. The planning process might also encourage students who are satisfied with minimum effort to reach for higher levels of achievement knowing the economic benefits of postsecondary career pathways. Additionally, it will give students opportunities to identify areas of interest and explore new things about which they may not otherwise be aware.

    • Governor Timothy M. Kaine. Letter to the Virginia Board of Education, December 2007.

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Proposed academic career plan

  • Requires schools to develop and maintain personal academic and career plans for 7th and 8th grade students.

  • Plans must include:

    • Student’s educational goals and program of study for high school graduation.

    • Postsecondary career pathway based on student’s academic and career interests.

  • Plans must be signed by:

    • The student

    • Student’s parent or guardian;

    • School official.

  • Plans are to be included in the students’ record and updated before the student enters 9th and 11th grades.

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Consequences of Dropping Out

Alliance for Excellent Education in their report The High Cost of High School Dropouts stated that if the 1.9 million high school dropouts from the Class of 2006 had earned their diploma instead of dropping out, the United States economy would have seen an additional $309 billion in wages over these students’ lifetimes.

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  • Two problems have consistently plagued the graduation-rate figures that are reported to the public:

    • (1) a lack of common, accurate definitions among states and (2) poor-quality data collected at the local level.

    • The governors commitment to the Graduation Counts Compact, followed by the new federal regulations, and the Virginia On-Time Graduation Rate addresses the problem of inaccurate graduation-rate calculations.

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  • To meet the challenge of graduating more students from high school, state leaders should focus on the following:

    • Supporting high-quality data collection at the local level.

    • Setting more rigorous goals and improvement targets.

    • Establishing as a high statewide priority the goal of improving high school graduation rates.

      * Habash, Anna. (2008) Counting on Graduation: An Agenda for State Leadership. A Report by Education Trust.

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Solutions… school,

  • Improved Instruction and Support for Struggling Students

  • Build a School Climate that Fosters Academics and is Safe

  • Ensure Strong Adult-Student Relationships Within the School

  • Better School – Parent Communication

  • Offer different schools/class experiences for different students

  • Create Early Warning Systems (Dropping out of school isn’t a sudden act, but a slow process of disengagement -- academic and social.)

  • Engage parents in school with individualized graduation plans

  • Mobilize adult advocates to get the kids the support they need – literacy programs, mentoring, tutoring, after-school help, school and peer counseling

    Bridgeland, John M., DiIulio, Jr., John J., Burke-Morison, Karen. (2006) The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts, A Report by Civic Enterprises, LLC. for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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DOE’s Graduation Rate Pilot school,

  • Gives Pulaski County an opportunity to participate in the development of an instrument to predict students who will get “off track” for graduating on time.

  • Goal – is to develop an instrument that can be used to predict students who are in danger of dropping out. If we are able to identify these students in 9th grade, 6th grade or before, we can target them for earlier academic, attendance and/or behavioral interventions.

  • The following data will be collected by all participating counties:

    • language arts and math grades and SOL scores

    • age and attendance

    • 9th grade retention

    • discipline

  • Divisions may choose to track data of local interest (pregnancy, ESL, disadvantaged, etc).

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The Whole Child Compact school,

  • Healthy

  • Safe

  • Engaged

  • Supported

  • Challenged

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“Programs don’t change kids relationships do. A good program creates an environment in which healthy relationships can occur.”

- Bill Milliken, Founder of Communities in School

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Resources from VDOE close they were to success when they gave up.

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Content-specific resources close they were to success when they gave up.

  • Algebra Readiness Initiative


  • Project Graduation


  • Middle School Mathematics: Online Strategies for Teachers


  • SOL Resources for Virginia Students, Parents and Teachers


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Other Resources close they were to success when they gave up.

  • EIMS: Data tools available from the state


  • Improving School Attendance: A Resource Guide for Virginia Schools


  • Student Assistance Programming


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Questions? close they were to success when they gave up.

Thomas M Brewster, Ed.D.

Assistant Superintendent for Administration

Pulaski County Public Schools

Member, Virginia Board of Education


Deborah Jonas,Ph.D.

Executive Director for Research and Strategic Planning