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Request for Waiver of Provisions Support Letter 5

Support letter from Ernie Silva requesting a waiver of provisions of sections of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Accessible Alternative Version of the letter from Ernie Silva, pages 21-23 of the Waiver Support Letters (PDF; 4MB).
This document provides text translation of the letter of support from Ernie Silva regarding the Request for Waiver of Provisions letter.

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Real Learning for Real Life
Serving California with campuses in El Centro, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose

2611 Temple Heights Drive, Suite A
Oceanside, CA 92056
PH 760-945-1227
FX 760-631-3411

June 7, 2012

The Honorable Sue Burr
Executive Director
California State Board of Education
1430 N Street, Suite #5111
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: California's "state defined" waiver request

Dear Executive Director Burr:

I am writing to support the California State Board of Education's actions seeking an Adequate Yearly Progress waiver from the Department of Education. As you move forward in developing new models of accountability, SIATech encourages you to address accountability issues relevant to dropout recovery high schools. Other states including Florida, Arizona and Colorado have taken initiative to develop a differentiated system of accountability for schools serving reengaged dropouts and other unique student populations. In California there a distinct class of charter schools serving former dropouts in partnership with Federal and other career preparation programs. These schools are specifically recognized in Education Code Section 47605.1.

The National Governor's Association (NGA) has supported research on the dropout crisis and specifically dropout recovery. In addition to their seminal work, Achieving Graduation For All (2009), NGA researcher Ryan Reyna published State Policies to Reengage Dropouts, July 12, 2011. I encourage review of these resources in developing appropriate California policies.

Research by West Ed and others demonstrates that graduation rate goals and implicitly cohort rates are inappropriate for students that reenter high school significantly below grade level. Unfortunately, nothing in AYP or state law recognizes this specific problem for dropout recovery schools.

Graduation Rate Issues

High schools that serve former dropouts do not fit into the assumptions that traditional high schools or even dropout "prevention" programs do. The great majority of our students have previously dropped out of another high school. State and national studies indicate that the graduation rate for reengaged students is far below that of any other group. Reengaged students are commonly outside of the 4 year or extended year cohorts used for calculating graduation rates. Most importantly, studies show that former dropouts graduate at a rate between 18% and 21%. This is substantiated by a recent study demonstrating that only 1 in 5 reenrolled dropouts will earn a high school diploma (see Rumberger, Dropping Out: Why Students Drop Out of School and What Can Be Done About It, Harvard University Press, 2011).

The School for Integrated Academics and Technologies (SIATech) serves 16-24 year old out of school youth at the Job Corps Centers and other WIA programs in California. We provide a State standards-aligned, WASC accredited, public high school diploma to students who are willing to reengage in school and undertake the challenges that dropout recovery entails.

SIATech is proud that its graduation rate is twice that of the national average for dropout recovery. However, the State's 90% goal for graduation rates will not be met by our or other dropout recovery schools. We encourage you to develop a meaningful graduation rate policy for former dropouts. There are alternatives available to California that meet Federal policy. For example, the State of Florida, which has Federal Race to the Top status, excludes prior dropouts from their school and district dropout rates.

Because dropout recovery exists to reengage students who have been out of school for some period, it is in direct conflict with existing practices to calculate graduation and dropout rates by "cohort". Because students may withdraw for a period of years before reenrolling, they do not fit into a four year cohort and most will not fit an adjusted five or six year cohort.

SIATech advocates an alternative approach to the cohort construct when dealing with recovered dropouts. Instead of focusing a cohort on the students who enrolled as freshmen and were given 4, 5, or 6 years to graduate, create an alternative cohort that recognizes the propensity of reengaged students to dropout again, and establish a cohort for the students that have stayed at least a year. These are the students that a school will have the greatest impact on and should be held accountable for graduating.

Accountability Metrics

With the adoption of AB 180 (Education Code Sec. 52052.3) California has begun to recognize accountability measures that address these unique needs. Developing a system beyond the limited term pilot of AB 180 is appropriate as the State Board looks at developing meaningful multiple measures for school accountability. Components that we encourage are:

  • Identification of schools eligible for differentiated accountability
  • The use of appropriate and meaningful accountability measures that utilize a Problem Solving and Response to Instruction/Intervention model
  • An understanding that there are causal factors that inform student performance
    • Acknowledgement of the need to include systems that evaluate individual student academic growth as opposed to simplistic cohort measures of grade level achievement
    • Acknowledgement of the inclusion of practices (support and specific research-based interventions) that are driving individual student success

We support California's waiver request because we believe that the AYP waiver will allow California to continue the development and implementation of appropriate and meaningful measures of accountable for all schools and students, and not arbitrarily punish schools and staff involved with State-Federal recovery programs or which serve a majority underserved student population.

These are difficult issues. We encourage the Board to engage with us in finding solutions so that California's policies that serve as disincentives to dropout recovery can be revised to encourage more schools to take on the important work of reengaging the nearly 200,000 students a year that do not complete high school.


{Signature of Ernie Silva}

Ernie Silva
Director of External Affairs

Cc: Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
Sue Burr, Executive Director, State Board of Education
Deb Sigman, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction

Questions:   State Board of Education | 916-319-0827
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, March 29, 2017
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