In 2018, new rules will change the way Florida public schools calculate graduation rates. They will have to include students who transfer to private online learning providers late in their academic careers.
TC Palm reported the change could cause graduation rates to dip 2 or 3 percentage points in some districts. A Tallahassee Democrat report from last year suggests the impact could be substantial in districts like Leon County, where graduation rates have surged.
But other districts may feel no effect at all. That’s because they don’t use the system described this spring by the Bradenton Herald. Districts would pay online learning providers like Smart Horizons Career Online Education something like $1,295 per student. Students would transfer from their public schools to the online vendor, in whole or in part, depending on whether they were likely to receive a diploma.
The Herald described it this way:
Almost all of Manatee County’s transfers at the end of the year are students who were dual-enrolled in Smart Horizons, an accredited online private school, during the second semester of their senior year, Greene said. Smart Horizons students take electives and career-training courses while at the same time taking core classes in a Manatee high school, completing remediation and retaking the state test.
If the student never passes the state test, has a 2.0 grade-point average in their core classes and successfully completes the Smart Horizons career training program, they will be transferred out of Manatee schools at the end of the year and earn a diploma from Smart Horizons. If they pass the state test while in Smart Horizons, they will earn a diploma from a Manatee high school, and the program will have served as a backup plan to ensure the student doesn’t join the ranks of the degree-less, Greene said.