Archive for Thursday, September 11, 2003

New figures vindicate Virtual School

Department of Education adjusts graduation numbers

September 11, 2003

Officials at the Basehor-Linwood Virtual School woke up Tuesday morning with a 100 percent graduation rate, a 57 percent increase over its rate last month.

"It was taken care of rather quickly, wasn't it," said Brenda De Groot, director of the Virtual School. "We stated our case and it was heard. The (state department of education) was very responsive."

The Virtual School is an on-line program where students complete course work via the Internet. The non-traditional program includes an enrollment of home school and at-risk students.

This week, the state department of education shifted its policy concerning the Virtual School in particular and alternative education programs in general, discounting non-traditional students from the graduation rate requirements for those programs.

Literally overnight, the Virtual School went from a 43 percent graduation rate to a perfect 100 percent.

"It was a very rewarding message to receive," assistant superintendent Bill Hatfield said. "It was very fair and we appreciate the department of education's consideration."

The new graduation rate takes the Virtual School, and the school district, out of a potentially threatening situation.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, school districts with programs that continually fail to meet annual yearly progress standards (AYP) are subject to sanctions. Programs deemed failing could lose accreditation and funding if they do not show adequate progress.

In August, the Kansas Department of Education released a list of Kansas schools not meeting AYP standards. The Virtual School was on the list.

Out of 23 students deemed seniors, just 10 graduated, according to the department of education. The Virtual School was the only program in Basehor-Linwood failing to meet standards.

Basehor-Linwood School District officials contended the rating was flawed because it failed to discount non-traditional students -- students over the age of 19 who typically are taking classes part-time, in addition to working full-time and raising children, school officials said.

Under the previous grading system, those students weren't separated when considering graduation requirements, a flaw school officials worked with the department of education to correct.

School officials said they were determined not to let a good educational program such as the Virtual School fall by the wayside because of a technicality.

"I think it's a concern schools had across Kansas for alternative programs," De Groot said. "This ensures we can continue to help at-risk kids without getting knocked for it, which is a really good thing."

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