Education Commission of the States • 700 Broadway, Suite 810 • Denver, CO 80203-3442 • 303.299.3600 • Fax: 303.296.8332 •
Highlights of High School Initiatives

This database includes highlights of promising state and district-level high school reform initiatives. To be included in the database, initiatives need to demonstrate that they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Serving a substantial population of traditionally underserved students, be they minority, low-income, special needs, first-generation college students, etc.
  • Stable--most initiatives in this database have been in place for at least three years, although ECS is allowing exceptions for programs producing outstanding results.
  • Producing results based on data rather than anecdote or perception. Results may be measured in improved student attendance, graduation rates, student achievement, postsecondary transition rates, etc.
  • Replicable — that efforts can be reproduced elsewhere and do not hinge on the impact of one extraordinary leader.
  • Fiscally sustainable.
  • Bold/innovative.
ECS will continue to add to this database as new initiatives are identified, so please check back.

Last updated: August 14, 2008

San Jose, Maine and Virginia information compiled by Jennifer Dounay, project manager, ECS High School Policy Center. Dounay can be reached at 303.299.3689 or

Kentucky and New York City information compiled by Timothy Taylor, assistant policy analyst. Los Angeles, Florida, Coweta County (Georgia), Boston Pilot SchoolsMichigan, "Met" (Providence, Rhode Island) and North East Independent School District (Texas) information compiled by Michael Colasanti, associate researcher. Colasanti can be reached at 303.299.3672 or

Highlights of Local Initiatives
Why this initiative is highlighted Los Angeles, an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse district (and the second-largest district in the U.S.), will require all students to complete a high school curriculum aligned with the course admissons requirements for the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) university systems, effective with the Class of 2012. In doing so, the district serves as a model for other districts/states striving to ensure that traditionally underserved students have the opportunity to attend college–regardless of whether students ultimately choose to do so.
State or District Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), California
  • Ensure access for all students to a rigorous academic program
  • Ensure that all students have the opportunity to pursue postsecondary options
  • Ensure that students who do enter a postsecondary institution have a successful first year in which remedial classes are minimized
  • Ensure that students who enter the workforce have a deep body of knowledge and critical thinking and study skills
  • Policy implications
  • Same core courses for all
  • High school curriculum aligned with postsecondary admission requirements
  • Demographics 2005 Los Angeles Unified School District K-12 data:
    White: 9.0%
    Black: 11.6%
    Hispanic: 72.8%
    Asian: 3.8%
    Pacific Islander: 0.3%
    Filipino: 2.2%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.3%
    Low-income: 75%
    Name of program A-G curriculum
    Administrating agency (for state programs) n/a
    Program duration Beginning with the Class of 2012 (2008-2009 school year)
    Components included 1) Alignment of graduation requirements with "A-G curriculum," the University of California and California State University's course admission requirements.

    2) A-G curriculum:
  • “A”- History/Social Science: 3 units (World History, US History, Principles of American Democracy, Economics)
  • “B”- English: 4 units (English 9, English 10, American Literature and Contemporary Composition, 12th Grade Composition and English elective)
  • “C”- Mathematics: 2 units (Algebra I and Geometry or Advanced Applied Mathematics or Algebra II)
  • “D”- Lab science: 2 units (Biology and Chemistry or Physics)
  • “E”- Foreign Language: 2 units
  • “F”- Visual/Performing Arts: 1 unit (Visual/Performing Arts)
  • “G”- Electives: 7 units
  • Funding Funding for the A-G curriculum is from a variety of sources and serves a variety of purposes. The district has received state funds to implement the roll-out of the initiative in Los Angeles. These funds will be used to provide the community and parents with information about the new graduation requirements and how each school in the community is performing in implementing them (a "high school report card").

    The districts expects that all of the new academic responsibilities will be absorbed by the current staff. Indeed, a 2005 report by Education Trust-West estimated that the district would have to increase its teacher load by only 0.3% in order to fully implement the new requirements. That said, any new personnel or professional development will be funded by the individual local district (LAUSD is comprised of 8 local districts).
    Method 1) The University of California (UC) reviews the district’s courses to ensure they are aligned with their standards. The courses must:
  • Be academically challenging
  • Include substantial reading and writing
  • Include problem-solving and lab work
  • Ensure students conduct analytical thinking
  • Ensure students develop oral and listening skills

  • 2) District/student/parental notification:
  • The superintendent must advise school districts about the requirement of making available to all students the current list of "A-G" courses offered.
  • The superintendent of public instruction must assist districts to ensure that all students have access to courses that meet the admission requirements of the University of California.
  • Districts must inform parents and students about the A-G requirements and are encouraged to do so through the following means: distribute information at parent/student orientations, post course offerings by the school administrative offices, highlight "A-G" courses in the high school course catalog, and at least once a year, send parents information on UC's admission requirements and which courses available to their child will satisfy those requirements.
  • Results The Office of Program Research and Evaluation is currently working to gather baseline information which will be used to demonstrate results.
    Primarily initiated by The "A-G" curriculum was adopted by the Los Angeles Board of Education in 2005, in part due to the demand for reform from minority and low-income community members who pushed for providing all students with the freedom to choose between university and the workplace after high school. The community involvement was led by the members of the Communities of Educational Equality (a coalition of local community-based organizations, leading research institutions and civic leaders).
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes
    Program has undergone independent evaluation Education Trust-West is currently working with the Office of Program Evaluation and Research to evaluate the program.
    Resources/links Demographics:
    District Web site:
    Other Program resources: Michelle King, Deputy Chief Instructional Officer for Secondary Instruction; 2006-2007 Graduation Requirements and Minimum College Admission "A-G" Requirements; University of California 2007 Guide to "A-G" Requirements and Instructions; Preparing LAUSD High School Students for the 21st Century Economy: We have the way, but do we have the will?; April 26, 2005 News Release, Office of Communications; CAL. EDUC. CODE § 66204

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted San Jose, a large, ethnically diverse urban district, is requiring all students to complete a high school curriculum aligned with the course admissons requirements for the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) university systems. In doing so, the district serves as a model for other districts/states striving to ensure that traditionally underserved students have the opportunity to attend college–regardless of whether students ultimately choose to do so.
    State or District San Jose, California
    Goals Twofold:
  • To close the opportunity gap between poor and minority students and other students in terms of the rigor of the high school curriculum
  • To make sure that every student had the opportunity to go to college if he or she chose. (The goal was not necessarily that every student would go to college.)
  • Policy implications
  • Same core courses for all
  • High school curriculum aligned with postsecondary admission requirements
  • Demographics 2005 data (K-12):
    White: 28.6%
    Black: 3.4%
    Hispanic: 50.4%
    Asian: 12.6%
    Pacific Islander: 0.6%
    Filipino: 1.8%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 2%
    Multiracial: .7%
    Low-income: 41.3%
    Name of program A-G Curriculum
    Administrating agency (for state programs) n/a
    Program duration 1998-present (first graduating class was the Class of 2002)
    Components included All students must complete:
  • The rigorous "A-G" graduation requirements.
  • 40 hours community service.
  • Funding

    • Some state funding related to the district's federal desegregation order was allocated to additional professional development.
    • Business community provided financial support, including for a summer bridge program assisting students transitioning from grades 8 to 9. IBM started an e-mentoring program, mentoring grade 9 algebra students.
    • Higher education helped by bringing in professional development resources, especially in math.
    • Foundation support was provided via grants.
    It should be noted that: (1) the district was very aggressive in seeking out funds to support the A-G Curriculum initiative; and (2) the district had to invest heavily in professional development to implement the A-G curriculum for all students.

    • All students required to complete the "A-G" curriculum aligned with course admissions requirements to the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems.
    • All students must complete 40 hours of community service. All high schools hold community service fairs, where 20-40 service agencies provide students with information on areas in which they may perform service.

    • The district high school graduation rate has risen slightly since 1998, rather than declined, as critics had predicted.
    • Almost 2/3 of San Jose district high school graduates are eligible to enroll in UC or CSU. This means that not only did they take all necessary courses and earn a "C" or better, but they had the GPA that would make them eligible. Prior to the reform, only 40% of district students had taken the A-G curriculum, and very few underrepresented students had taken the A-G curriculum.
    • Seniors' GPAs went up, in spite of the more challenging courses they were completing.
    • Advanced Placement (AP) course enrollments have risen substantially. The percentage of AP exam scores of "3" or higher in the district rose from 43.5 to 57.4 between 1999 and 2004, while the numbers of AP tests taken increased from 748 to 1197 over the same period of time.
    • State reading and math assessment scores have risen at rates higher than the state average.
    • The white/Latino achievement gap has narrowed substantially. In 2003, Latino 11th and 12th graders comprised over 30% of the 11th and 12th graders enrolled in Algebra II and 32% of the 11th and 12th graders enrolled in higher level science courses, up from 2002 figures of 11% and 27%, respectively. In addition, pass rates for Latino students in A-G courses has risen.
    • SAT verbal scores of Latino, White and Asian students improved between 2001-2005, at the same time the number of SAT test-takers in the district rose.
    Primarily initiated by Local board, which passed the policy in 1997. However, for several years prior to that decision, the local board had encouraged public engagement, conducting surveys, and providing opportunities for the community to weigh in on whether requiring the A-G curriculum for all students was the right direction for the district. The board received strong signals from parents, students, the community at large, and the business community that they supported more challenging high school standards and that the district's existing high school standards were not adequately preparing students for the world after high school.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes. The district's moves to reposition resources and reach out to partners resulted in a sustaining vision. Now that the A-G curriculum program is institutionalized and the resources are in place, there would be tremendous public outcry if the resources were taken away.
    Program has undergone independent evaluation Yes. Education Trust-West has reported findings on the effects of the program in a number of publications and presentations, including the 2004 report, The A-G Curriculum: College-Prep? Work-Prep? Life-Prep.
    Resources/links Demographics:
    District Web site: Web site
    Other program resources: Linda Murray, former San Jose superintendent and current Education Trust-West Superintendent in Residence; Education Trust-West press release; Ross Weiner, Education Trust, May 15, 2006 Power Point presentation "Increasing Access--and Success--in Rigorous Courses; High Schools in San Jose Unified: A Status Report; National Governors Association Guide, Getting It Done: Ten Steps to a State Action Agenda; Preparing LAUSD High School Students for the 21st Century Economy: We have the way, but do we have the will?

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted While many states appear to be taking a "piecemeal" approach to high school reform, this legislation sets forth a comprehensive set of actions that take into consideration several areas, including adolescent literacy, teacher professional development at the high school level, flexible and personalized instruction, and credit recovery options.
    State or District Florida
    Goals This legislation is aimed at improving schools through various points of influence, including:

  • Accountability and data systems
  • Guiding principles that are aligned with research

  • According to the legislative staff analysis, principles embodied in H.B. 7087 include providing limited government, safeguarding individual liberty, promoting personal responsibility and empowering families.
    Policy implications
  • Longitudinal analyses
  • Guiding principles undergird accountability
  • Alternative means of demonstrating competency
  • Student support systems
  • Interventions
  • Rigorous, industry-driven curriculum
  • Access to high expectations
  • Demographics Florida 2005-06 data (K-12):
    White: 47.7%
    Black: 23.4%
    Hispanic: 23.4%
    Asian/Pacific Islander: 2.2%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.3%
    Multiracial: 3%
    Name of program Florida 2006 H.B. 7087
    Administrating agency (for state programs) Florida Department of Education
    Program duration The bill was signed by the governor June 6, 2006.
    Components included The bill is divided into five topic areas:

  • Education data and accountability
  • Standards and performance-based accountability
  • Instructional reforms
  • Teachers and principals
  • Exceptional students.
  • Funding State expenditures. There is no projected fiscal impact on local government expenditures. Some examples of state funding include:

  • $89 million for the Reading Instruction Allocation, which supports district K-12 comprehensive reading plans (intensive intervention, professional development, summer academies).
  • $50 million for three year Ready to Work Certification Program.
  • Method

    I. Education Data and Accountability

    Guiding principles for accountability system:
    Requires the department of education to align the accountability system with specified student progress goals and outlines the guiding principles for state and sector-specific standards and measures for implementing the accountability system. Defines secondary schools as those serving grades 6-12. Specifies that the following guiding principles must be used in the annual preparation of each secondary school's improvement plan:

  • Struggling students, especially those in failing schools, need the highest quality teachers and dramatically different, innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
  • Every teacher must contribute to every student's reading improvement.
  • Quality professional development provides teachers and principals with the tools they need to better serve students.
  • Small learning communities allow teachers to personalize instruction to better address student learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Intensive intervention in reading and math must occur early and through innovative delivery systems.
  • Parents need access to tools they can use to monitor their child's progress in school, communicate with teachers, and act early on behalf of their child.
  • Applied and integrated courses help students see the relationships between subjects and relevance to their futures.
  • School is more relevant when students choose courses based on their goals, interests, and talents.
  • Master schedules should not determine instruction and must be designed based on student needs, not adult or institutional needs.
  • Academic and career planning engages students in developing a personally meaningful course of study so they can achieve goals they have set for themselves.

    Requires local boards to adopt policies to address:

  • Procedures for placing and promoting grade 6-12 students entering from out of state or from a foreign country, including a review of the student's prior academic performance.
  • Alternative methods for students to demonstrate competency in required courses and credits, with special support for students who have been retained.
  • Applied, integrated, and combined courses that provide flexibility for students to enroll in courses that are creative and meet individual learning styles and student needs.
  • Credit recovery courses and intensive reading and math intervention courses based on student performance on the FCAT. These courses should be competency based and offered through innovative delivery systems, including computer-assisted instruction.
  • Grade forgiveness policies that replace a grade of "D" or "F" with a grade of "C" or higher earned subsequently in the same or a comparable course.
  • Summer academies for students to receive intensive reading and mathematics intervention courses or competency-based credit recovery courses.
  • Strategies to support teachers' pursuit of the reading endorsement and emphasize reading instruction professional development for content area teachers.
  • Creative and flexible scheduling designed to meet student needs.
  • Procedures for high school students who have not prepared an electronic personal education plan to prepare such plan.
  • Tools for parents to regularly monitor student progress and communicate with teachers.
  • Additional course requirements for promotion and graduation which may be determined by each school district in the student progression plan and may include additional academic, fine and performing arts, physical education, or career and technical education courses in order to provide a complete education program.

  • FCAT student achievement records:
    The Department of Education must annually provide a report on the following: (a) Longitudinal performance of students in mathematics and reading; (b) longitudinal performance of students by grade level in mathematics and reading; (c) longitudinal performance regarding efforts to close the achievement gap; (d) longitudinal performance of students on the norm-referenced component of the FCAT; and (e) other student performance data based on national norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests, when available, and numbers of students who after 8th grade enroll in adult education rather than other secondary education.

    II. Standards and Performance Based Accountability

    Sunshine State Standards:
    Each Sunshine State Standard subject area must be reviewed by the state board. School boards and superintendents must prescribe and adopt standards and policies to provide each student the opportunity to receive a complete education program, including language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, health, physical education, foreign languages, and the arts, as defined by the Sunshine State Standards. The standards and policies must emphasize integration and reinforcement of reading, writing, and mathematics skills across all subjects, including career awareness, career exploration, and career and technical education.

    Requires that all students in grades 3-10 take the FCAT reading and math tests annually and that students must take the FCAT science and writing at least once in the elementary, middle and high school levels. Also, schools in which low-performing students are enrolled must develop, in consultation with the student's parent, and must implement a progress monitoring plan. It is intended to provide the school district and the school flexibility in meeting the academic needs of the student and to reduce paperwork. A student who is not meeting the school district or state requirements for proficiency in reading and math must be covered by one of the following plans: 1. A federally required student plan such as an individual education plan; 2. A school-wide system of progress monitoring for all students; or 3. An individualized progress monitoring plan. If the student has been identified as having a deficiency in reading, the K-12 comprehensive reading plan must include instructional and support services to be provided to meet the desired levels of performance. District school boards may require low-performing students to attend remediation programs held before or after regular school hours or during the summer if transportation is provided.
    Method (cont'd)
    Equivalent scores for grade 10 FCAT:
    The state board must analyze the content and concordant data sets for widely used high school achievement tests, including the PSAT, PLAN, SAT, ACT, and College Placement Test, to assess if equivalent scores (i.e. "concordant" scores) for FCAT scores can be determined for high school graduation, college placement, and scholarship awards . In cases where content alignment and equivalent scores can be determined, the commissioner must adopt those scores as meeting the graduation requirement in lieu of achieving the FCAT passing score. In order to use a concordant subject area score, a student must take each subject area of the grade 10 FCAT a total of three times without earning a passing score. This requirement does not apply to a new student who enters the Florida public school system in grade 12, who may either achieve a passing score on the FCAT or use an approved subject area concordant score to fulfill the graduation requirement.

    III. Instructional Reforms

    Secondary school reform:
    The legislation shifts career and postsecondary planning from 9th grade to beginning in middle school. Students entering the 9th grade and their parents must have developed during the middle grades a 4- to 5-year academic and career plan. Four or more destinations should be considered available with bridges between destinations to enable students to shift academic and career priorities and destinations should they choose to change goals.

    High school reform:
    Revisions to high school graduation requirements include the completion of an Advanced International Certificate of Education curriculum and the requirement that students who are not on an advanced track complete 24 credits. (To see the graduation requirements for Florida and all other states, follow this link.)
    Secondary school reading and mathematics intervention courses:
    Middle and high school students who score "Level 1" on FCAT reading and math are required to complete an intensive reading course the following year. Students scoring "Level 2" may be placed in an intensive reading or content area course taught by a teacher trained in applying research-based strategies.

    Career and professional academies:
    Creates career and professional academies, defined as a research-based program that integrates a rigorous academic curriculum with an industry-driven career curriculum. The academies may be offered by public schools, school districts, or the Florida Virtual School. Students completing career and professional academy programs receive a standard high school diploma, the highest available industry certification, and postsecondary credit if the academy partners with a postsecondary institution. Each academy must: (a) Provide a rigorous standards-based academic curriculum integrated with a career curriculum; (b) include one or more partnerships with postsecondary institutions, businesses, industry, employers, economic development organizations, or other appropriate partners from the local community; (c) provide creative and tailored student advisement and coordinate with middle schools; (d) provide a career education certification on the high school diploma; (e) provide instruction in careers designated as high growth, high demand, and high pay; (f) deliver academic content through instruction relevant to the career, including intensive reading and mathematics intervention; (g) provide instruction resulting in competency, certification, or credentials in workplace skills; (h) provide opportunities for students to obtain the Florida Ready to Work Certification; and (i) include an evaluation plan developed jointly with the Department of Education.

    Dual enrollment:
    Revises access to dual enrollment policies and inclusion of IB and Advanced International Certificate of Education courses. Access to dual enrollment on the high school campus whenever possible. Alternative grade calculation, weighting systems, or information regarding student education options which discriminates against dual enrollment courses are prohibited. Beginning with students entering grade 9 in the 2006-2007 school year, school districts and community colleges must weigh college level dual enrollment courses the same as honors courses and advanced placement, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education courses when grade point averages are calculated. Alternative grade calculation or weighting systems that discriminate against dual enrollment courses are prohibited.

    IV. Teachers and Principals

    Co-teaching, team teaching and class size reduction:
    School districts may implement additional teaching strategies that include the assignment of more than one teacher to a classroom of students for the following purposes only: 1. Pairing teachers for the purpose of staff development. 2. Pairing new teachers with veteran teachers. 3. Reducing turnover among new teachers. 4. Pairing teachers who are teaching out-of-field with teachers who are in-field. 5. Providing for more flexibility and innovation in the classroom. 6. Improving learning opportunities for students, including students who have disabilities. Teaching strategies may be implemented subject to the following restrictions: 1. Reasonable limits shall be placed on the number of students in a classroom so that classrooms are not overcrowded. Teacher-to-student ratios within a curriculum area or grade level must not exceed constitutional limits. 2. At least one member of the team must have at least 3 years of teaching experience. 3. At least one member of the team must be teaching in-field. 4. The teachers must be trained in team-teaching methods within 1 year after assignment.

    V. Exceptional Students

    Graduation requirements and assessment of exceptional students:
    Requires local boards to modify basic courses, as necessary, to assure exceptional students the opportunity to meet the graduation requirements for a standard diploma, using one of the following strategies: 1. Assignment to an exceptional education class for instruction in a basic course with the same student performance standards as those required of nonexceptional students in the district student progression plan; or 2. Assignment to a basic education class for instruction modified to accommodate the student's exceptionality. Requires a student with disabilities who meets all state and local course, grade point average and testing requirements to be awarded a standard diploma. Provides that a student who completes the course requirements but is unable to meet the testing requirements, additional local requirements or minimum grade point average to be awarded a certificate of completion. Allows a student entitled to a certificate of completion to remain in school as a full- or part-time student for up to 1 additional year and receive special instruction designed to remedy his/her identified deficiencies.
    Results No results are available at this time.
    Primarily initiated by H.B. 7087 originated in the House Committee on Education Council- Pre K-12
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes, according to the legislative staff analysis, the governor has indicated there will be future budgetary requests for the programs.
    Program has undergone independent evaluation No information available.
    Resources/links Demographics: Florida Department of Education, Profiles of Florida School Districts, Financial Data (2005-2006)
    Other Program Resources: 2006 Florida H.B. 7087; Florida Legislative Staff analysis of H.B. 7087 

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted This district, serving a substantial proportion of African American and low-income students, has integrated academics with a career/technical education curriculum aligned with local business community needs. The program, which also offers dual credit opportunities and includes a built-in evaluative component, has resulted in improved high school graduation rates and postsecondary continuation rates.
    State or District Coweta County, Georgia
    Goals The mission of the Central Education Center (CEC) is to ensure a viable, 21st century workforce by serving both secondary and postsecondary students.  The aim is to produce accomplished citizens through a joint venture among business and industry, the local school system and the local technical college. CEC "seamlessly" combines academics with career and technical education.
    Policy implications
  • Relevant, applied academic opportunities
  • Integrated curriculum
  • Dual enrollment
  • Evaluative component
  • Demographics Coweta County 2006 data (K-12):
    White: 70.4%
    Black: 21.7%
    Hispanic: 4.5%
    Asian/Pacific Islander: 0.9%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.1%
    Multiracial: 2.3%
    Low-income: 24.6%
    Name of program Central Educational Center (CEC)
    Administrating agency (for state programs) N/A
    Program duration 2000-present
    Components included
  • Community-wide support with representatives of major stakeholders serving on a task force/steering committee
  • Partnerships with the local technical college, local business and industry
  • Curriculum paths leading to technical certificates
  • Articulation and dual enrollment opportunities with higher education
  • Performance-based instruction
  • A CEO who provides educational and business operation leadership
  • High-quality, multi-use facility with up-to-date technology and technical equipment
  • Funding
  • Between 1997-98, the Coweta County Board of Education identified and contributed a middle school as the new site for the Central Educational Center, which was valued at $7 million.
  • In 1999, $2 million in funds from a Coweta County special education tax used to renovate the donated site (which was donated by the Coweta County Board of Education).
  • In 2000, $7 million from legislative appropriation based on the "Governor's Model Project Grant" used to implement the original steering committee design.
  • Operational costs are split between state funding, local funding, and funding from the local technical college.
  • Method
  • Focus on integrating academics with career and technical education: The Central Educational Center's goal is to seamlessly integrate academics with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century workforce. They do this by providing authentic learning opportunities that give students hands-on experience that can translate into real world skills. Additionally, high school students learn side by side with technical college students and are able to dually enroll and earn college credit.
  • Course offerings and curriculum based on community/employer needs: One of the biggest employer needs identified was that students entering the workforce lacked a good work ethic. CEC has integrated the development of this quality into their daily instruction by using a variety of student accountability measures.  Additionally, students are able to participate in internships and apprenticeships while in school which both gives them job experience and serves as an example as to how to act professionally.
  • Regular data collection and monitoring of student satisfaction/performance and student placement: CEC regularly collects and analyzes data to ensure that employer needs are matched to instruction and to ensure that students are properly placed in the courses.
  • Results
  • Reduced dropout rates: Coweta County had an 8.6% drop out rate in 1999. CEC had reduced that number to 4.5% in 2006. 
  • Raised test scores (among economically disadvantaged students): Free and reduced lunch students participating in CEC have scored 21% better than their peers not participating in CEC.
  • Increased graduation rates: 98% completion rate for CEC students.
  • Increased entry of students into postsecondary education and the workforce: 120 after graduation, 100% of students either enter a postsecondary institution or the workplace (paying more than minimum wage).
  • Primarily initiated by The need for a school like the Central Educational Center was first identified by the local business community in Coweta County, Ga. The Georgia Department of Education, the business community, and Joe Harless, a performance technologist and local resident, came together to assemble the ideas and resources needed for the school.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes, the Central Educational Center is a publicly funded charter school.
    Program has undergone independent evaluation Yes, there have been a number of independent studies of the Central Educational Center. One example is from the Academy of Educational Development at the National Institute for Work and Learning, which is titled Reconceptualizing Education as an Engine of Economic Development: A Case Study of the Central Educational Center.
    Resources/links Demographics:
    Program Web site: Central Education Center
    Funding: Central Educational Center History Timeline; 1999 GA. H.B. 1162 § 42; Mark Whitlock, CEO Central Educational Center
    Components and methods and results: Mark Whitlock, CEO Central Educational Center

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted Kentucky offers all students the opportunity to complete a challenging high school curriculum through the Kentucky Virtual Schools (KYVS) (formerly known as Kentucky Virtual High School). KYVS offers numerous core academic, Advanced Placement, foreign language and career and technical education that might otherwise be unavailable to students in many schools across the state. KYVS also monitors the quality of its offerings by regularly analyzing a number of student outcomes measures.
    State or District Kentucky
    Goals To provide Kentucky students with equal access to expanded learning options, and allow every Kentucky high school to offer all students a pre-college curriculum and the opportunity to earn a Commonwealth Diploma.

    Other goals:
    • Provide flexible scheduling and resolve student scheduling conflicts and credit-transfer issues.
    • Offer year-round credit recovery.
    • Offer alternative education and home-bound instruction to students in an engaging learning environment that differs from the traditional classroom setting.
    • Offset teacher shortages and be able to offer low-enrollment classes affordably.
    • Provide high school courses to qualified middle school students.
    • Respond appropriately to the needs of Gifted & Talented students and offer the opportunity to earn college credits in high school through Advanced Placement (AP) or Dual Credit courses.
    Policy implications
  • Increased course access
  • Evaluative component
  • Demographics 2006 (K-12):
    White: 81.4%
    Black: 10%
    Hispanic: 1.9%
    Asian/Pacific Islander: 0.9%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.2%
    Low income: 49.5%
    Name of program Kentucky Virtual Schools (KVS)
    Administrating agency (for state programs) Kentucky State Department of Education
    Program duration 2000-present
    Components included Web site with resources for students and educators, including a student center with research tools and a virtual library. Also, a toll-free hotline for technical issues, and email/phone contact with online instructors.
    • The legislature funds basic operations and personnel, although such funding is not required by law. Districts pay tuition and other costs for local public high school students from their districts enrolled in a KVHS course for credit that is part of the student's regular school day coursework for required total instructional time.
    • The fee for courses is $100 per student for a 9-week credit recovery course, $150 per student for a half-credit course (one semester of content), and $300 per student for a whole-credit course (two semesters of content).
    • The district may ask the student to pay the fee if the course is above and beyond the required instructional time or if the student elects to take the KVHS course in lieu of a course already available at the high school to gain credit towards graduation. Other users, such as non-public school students, those retaking courses (credit recovery), and those enrolled in middle school courses, pay tuition. All course fees are paid from the district directly to KVHS.
    • The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority has established a special needs-based scholarship program funded on a year-to-year basis to expand access to and enrollment in online Advanced Placement (AP) and dual credit classes. KVHS provides administration of the program and delivers most of the services.
    Method Course Offering

    KVHS courses are delivered through the Kentucky Education Technology System at For the 2006-2007 school year, KVHS offers the following:
    • 20 Core academic courses;
    • 23 Advanced Placement (AP) courses;
    • 13 Foreign language courses (3 years of 4 different languages, 1 year of 1 language);
    • 3 Career & technical education courses;
    • 3 Non-core elective courses;
    • 3 Special topic courses; and
    • 2 Middle school courses (8th grade Language Arts & Pre-Algebra).

    AP courses are completed through the Kentucky Virtual Advanced Placement Academy of KVHS. All KVHS classes meet state and national curriculum standards and are taught by Kentucky certified teachers who must undergo special training and meet specified criteria to teach online courses.


    As of Fall 2006, there are approximately 2,400 students participating in some aspect of KVHS, including AP and credit recovery courses, as well as blended learning (combination of in-class learning and online content support).


    Although KVHS courses may be used to fulfill graduation requirements, a student may not obtain a diploma strictly through taking KVHS courses.

    Programmatic Issues

    Currently, KVHS licenses most of its curriculum from a number of providers, including Florida Virtual Schools and Apex Learning. However, KVHS also swaps curriculum content with other state online programs, such as the Illinois Virtual High School, and is working to develop its own curriculum to avoid licensing fees. Additionally, KVHS is part of a consortium with other state online programs that is developing an online middle school program. KVHS intends to expand its online middle school curriculum over the next several years, which will include content to supplement in-class instruction, as well as strictly online courses.
    Results Currently, KVHS measures success through data collection of:
    • Number of students registered in the program (increased from 60 students in its first year to over 2,000 students currently)
    • Number of schools participating in the program (has also grown significantly)
    • Number of schools expanding course offerings
    • Pass-fail rates and student achievement averages
    • Performance on End-of-Course Assessments
    • Performance on AP exams
    • Number of students completing credit recovery courses
    • Number of drop-out recoveries who re-enroll in KVHS and successfully complete coursework
    • Number of students re-enrolling in the program each year
    • Performance of students from lower-performing schools in KVHS courses versus average performance of such students in face-to-face classes

    KVHS is not connected with the state department of education’s student information center or database

    According to Linda Pittenger, Director of Secondary and Virtual Education, Kentucky Department of Education, KVHS has done well in nearly all of the above noted areas. However, in order to gather more reliable information and accurately determine results, a database is being developed for KVHS through an initiative being funded by the Bell South Foundation.
    Primarily initiated by KVHS was initiated by former Governor Paul Patton.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes. Although KVHS has received consistent funding from the state legislature since its inception, the requirement that the program be funded is not established in state statute. Thus, KVHS is subject to a year-to-year appropriation through the annual budget bill for its primary source of funding.
    Program has undergone independent evaluation No. However, courses are systematically monitored and evaluated by the Kentucky Department of Education to ensure quality of content, interactivity and pedagogy. The department follows guidelines set forth by the Southern Regional Education Board's (SREB) publication Essential Principles of Quality: Guidelines for Web-based Courses for Middle and High School Students.

    The University of Florida will independently evaluate the program as part of an overall assessment and evaluation of the BellSouth 20/20 Vision for Education initiative, which includes KVHS.
    Resources/links Demographics:
    Program Web sites: KYVS; Kentucky Department of Education KVHS Web page
    Other program resources: Linda Pittenger, Director of Secondary and Virtual Education, Kentucky Department of Education; Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Report on State Virtual Schools, June 2005 (see pgs. 16-18); BellSouth Foundation 20/20 Vision for Education initiative

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted This program, currently active in 74 high schools and aimed to eventually be available in every public high school in the state, provides college counseling and tuition coverage to academically able students who did not previously consider themselves "college material." The program has achieved high retention and postsecondary graduation rates (not to mention student satisfaction ratings) among students who might otherwise have been overlooked in preparations for postsecondary education.
    State or District Maine
    Goals Increasing college awareness and participation among students who are capable of succeeding in but have no plans to attend college. Schools may also consider in selecting participants whether student is first in family to attend college and student's financial need. Program is anticipated to be offered in every public high school in Maine by 2008 and is part of Governor Baldacci's goal of increasing the college-going rate of high school graduates from 55 percent to 70% by 2010.
    Policy implications
  • Outreach
  • Counseling
  • Tuition support
  • Broadening access
  • Demographics 2006 (K-12):
    White: 95.1%
    Black: 2%
    Hispanic: 0.9%
    Asian/Pacific Islander: 1.4%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.5%
    Low-income: 33.8%
    Name of program Early College for ME (ECforME)
    Administrating agency (for state programs) Maine Community College System
    Program duration 2003-present
    Components included Early College for ME, while targeting students not planning to attend college, includes features of outreach and dual enrollment programs and is less similar to traditional early college high school programs.

    • Assessment of academic readiness for college.
    • Counseling on courses students should take to meet college entrance requirements.
    • Assistance selecting early college courses.
    • Assistance with the college application and financial aid process (including help completing FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid] form).
    • Financial aid ($500/semester for up to four semesters).
    • "Go to" person available once student begins early college
    Funding Private and public sources. The Maine Community College System (MCCS) received $400,000 in two matching grants for scholarships from The Betterment Fund to pilot the program starting in 2003. To expand the program statewide, MCCS has received a $1 million grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, which has been matched by the state from a dedicated revenue source, as well as a new $500,000 appropriation from the State—proposed by Governor Baldacci and endorsed by the Legislature in early 2006. These funds will be combined with existing Maine Community College System funding. The state’s 2006 appropriation will allow the program to expand from 40 to more than 70 high schools for the 2005-2006 school year, with the plan to expand to all public high schools in the state by 2008.
    Method High schools select juniors based on eligibility criteria , including that students must be in good standing (the program does not ask for a minimum GPA; "good standing" generally means a student is on track to graduate and is performing satisfactorily as a member of the school community). Students receive $500 a semester toward tuition, fees, books and, if necessary, on-campus housing to complete a 1-year certificate, a 1- or 2-year diploma or a 2-year associate's degree at any of Maine's seven community colleges. If selected by their school, participating students have the opportunity to take up to two community college courses during their senior year in high school, with tuition, books, and fees paid for by ECforME.
    Results As of June 2005, 71% of students who entered college in fall 2003 or 2004 were either still enrolled, graduated or had transferred to a 4-year postsecondary institution. A September 2005 survey found that among first-year community college students, 93% rate the support from Early College for ME staff throughout the college admissions process as excellent or very good. 97% rate the help from Early College for ME staff as critically or very important. 93% rate the scholarship as critically or very important to their desire to go to college.

    Among second-year community college students, 100% rate the support from Early College for ME staff as excellent or very good. 87% say their first year of college has affected their education plans. 85% say their first year of college has affected their career plans. Fifty percent of those participating in fall 2003, 2004 or 2005 were first-generation college students.
    Primarily initiated by ECforME was initiated by the Maine Community College System, but was adopted soon after with the support of Governor Baldacci as the state’s early college program. Governor Baldacci announced in January 2006 that he would support statewide implementation of the program in all publicly funded secondary schools by 2008, and funded a significant expansion of the program’s pilot phase in his 2006 budget, which was endorsed by the Legislature.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes
    Program has undergone independent evaluation No
    Resources/links Demographics:
    Program Web site: Early College for ME
    Other program resources: Jean Mattimore, Ed.D. Executive Director, Center for Career Development and State Director, Early College for ME Maine Community College System

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted The Boston Pilot Schools reflect a promising approach to improving urban schools.
    State or District Boston Public School District
    Goals To demonstrate that urban schools created around the four elements of autonomy, accountability, small size and equity can perform at higher levels than peer schools with similar demographics and funding.
    Policy implications
  • Autonomy balanced with accountability
  • School size
  • Student-centered
  • Equitable access.
  • Demographics 2007 Boston Pilot Schools K-12 data:
    White: 12.4%
    Black: 46.2%
    Hispanic: 32.1%
    Asian: 8.2%
    American Indian: 1.1%

    (Note: Student demographics of Boston Pilot Schools are very similar to student demographics of Boston Public Schools with the exception of English language learners.)

    Out of 144 Boston public schools, 20 schools participate in the Boston Pilot program. In the 2007-2008 school year, 6,627 students were enrolled in Pilot schools out of a total Boston Public Schools (BPS) enrollment of 56,190, meaning 11.8% of BPS students in 2007-2008 attended Pilot schools.
    Name of program Boston Pilot Schools
    Administrating agency (for state programs) N/A
    Program duration 1994-present
    Components included There are four "essential" features of all Boston Pilot Schools: autonomy, accountability, small size and equity.

    I. Autonomy: Pilot schools have increased control over their resources: budgeting, staffing, scheduling, curriculum and assessment, and governance.

  • Budgeting: Schools operate on "lump sum" per-pupil budgets, the sum of which are equivalent to other district schools with equivalent grade spans and include salaries, instructional materials, consultants, etc. This form of budgeting allows for greater flexibility in determining how and where to spend resources.
  • Staffing: Schools have the authority to hire and reduce or cut their staff and make decisions on staffing patterns and work assignments. Schools may also hire staff regardless of union status (i.e. staff do not have to be members of the district prior to hiring, although every hired teacher becomes a member of the Boston Teachers Union bargaining unit).
  • Scheduling: Schools have the authority to set the length of the school day and calendar year for students and faculty, including increased time for professional development and planning periods.
  • Curriculum and assessment: All schools are subject to federal and state assessments, but they have the authority to individually structure their curriculum and assessment practices free from district requirements. Schools are also able to set their own graduation requirements (as long as they are comparable in rigor to district requirements).
  • Governance: Schools have the authority to create their own governance structure with increased decisionmaking powers over budget approval, principal selection and evaluation, and programs and policies.

  • II. Accountability: In exchange for greater autonomy, pilot schools are held to higher levels of accountability. For example, in addition to ongoing assessment, every five years each school undergoes a School Quality Review (SQR) process that is based on common benchmarks of high-performing schools. The SQR process includes input from the schools, external evaluators, Boston Public School district (BPS) and the Boston Teachers Union (BTU). There are five main steps in the pilot schools' accountability system:

  • Each school conducts a "School Self-Study" and creates a school portfolio.
  • External practitioners conduct a three-day SQR and report out with commendations, concerns and recommendations.
  • Schools outline in writing the steps the school will take to address the SQR report recommendations.
  • The SQR report and the school response are submitted to the joint BPS/BTU steering committee for review and feedback.
  • Schools implement an action plan based on the SQR report, the school's response and recommendation from the steering committee.

  • III. Small Size: Pilot schools are small in size; as of 2006-07, only two of the 20 pilot schools had enrollments over 475 students and these two schools are broken into multiple small academies. The most common enrollment is between 200-300 students (across six schools). Also, one school, the Greater Egleston Community High School, has fewer than 100 students.

    IV. Equity: Schools do not enroll students based on background or academic success. They operate under the Boston Public Schools controlled choice plan (meaning they give most weight to students who are within walking distance and who have a sibling at the school). Curriculum and instruction is developed to be equitable in the sense that students are allowed multiple ways, such as multiple assessments, and portfolios and exhibitions, to demonstrate their knowledge. Also, teachers often attend professional development sessions that focus on diversity and inclusion.
    Funding Funding, similar to that of Boston Public Schools, is from federal, state and local sources.  Local funding is in the form of a per-pupil budget and also includes funding for discretionary services. Also, budgets are are equivalent to other district schools with equivalent grade spans and include salaries, instructional materials, consultants, etc.
    Method Boston Pilot Schools may be created through two main avenues: as a new, start-up school or as a pilot conversion.

  • New, Start-Up Pilot School: Through a request for proposal (RFP) issued by the Boston Public Schools, design teams may apply to create a pilot school in a designated facility. Design teams are comprised of six to 15 members including educators, students, families and community members. The RFP is developed and reviewed by the BPS/BTU Steering Committee. No pilot schools are established without the approval of the Joint BTU/BPS Steering Committee and the School Committee.
  • Pilot Conversion: An existing BPS school may convert to pilot status with a 2/3 majority vote of Boston Teachers Union (BTU) members who work more than 50% of their week at the school. Charter schools may also convert to pilot status. Within the "Pilot Conversion" avenue, there exists another option of creating a separate pilot school within an existing facility. The same approval requirements must be met, as well as approval from the school's site council.

    (To see a list of all Boston Pilot Schools, including enrollment numbers, grades served, date of initial pilot status and pilot type, follow this link.)

    Policies for teacher working conditions are established in the Boston Teachers Union collective bargaining agreement. All pilot schools are exempt from union and school committee work rules. Teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses, guidance counselors, substitutes and all other employees at pilot schools under union contract accrue seniority in the system and receive, at a minimum, the salary and benefits established in the BTU contract. Teachers attend the pilot schools voluntarily and are required to work the full work day/year as prescribed by the individual school.
  • Results
    Student Engagement (data from 2001-2005)
  • Attendance rate: Pilot schools had an average attendance rate of 94%, compared to district average of 89%.
  • Out-of-school suspensions: Pilot schools had an average out-of-school suspension rate of 3.8%, compared to district average of 9.3%.
  • Transfer rates out of district: Pilot schools had an average transfer rate of 4.9%, compared to district average of 7.4%.
  • Dropout rate: Pilot schools had an average dropout rate of 4.3%, compared to district average of 6.6%.
    Student Performance (data from 2001-2005)
  • Grade-level retention rate: Pilot schools had an average retention rate of 15.3%, compared to district average of 25%.
  • Grade 10 MCAS pass rates: Pilot schools had an average English/language arts (ELA) pass rate of 78.9% and a math pass rate of 64.8%, compared to the district average of 59.2% and 52.6% respectively.
  • Replication in Action: Commonwealth Pilot Schools and Discovery Schools
    Commonwealth Pilot Schools are modeled after the Boston Pilot Schools and are intended as an option for underperforming schools within the public school system. These schools began when, in a 2006 board of education meeting, the board gave four "underperforming schools" the option to be designated "chronically underperforming," or the option to apply to be a Commonwealth Pilot School. Districts must agree to extend to the school's governing body full autonomy over budget, staffing, curriculum/assessment, governance and schedule. Commonwealth Pilot Schools are framed around the following principles:

  • Maximum autonomy over resources in exchange for increased accountability
  • Buy-in and ownership of the school model by the school community
  • Conditions for successful school and environment
  • Documented progress and processes of each school

  • The Discovery School concept was initiated during negotiations between BTU and BPS in 2006, when it was decided that they wanted to create more Pilot schools as well as this new type of school. The concept blends the traditional public school model and the pilot school model by extending to the Discovery school two of the autonomies that pilot schools have: budgetary and curriculum/assessment. Discovery school employees are still under the BTU contract, and are covered by the negotiated work rules.

    Based on the success of Boston Pilot schools, Governor Deval Patrick has proposed the creation of a large number of "Readiness Schools" throughout the state, directly modeled on Pilot schools. With help from the Boston-based Center for Collaborative Education, Los Angeles Unified School District has a major Pilot school initiative underway, the "Belmont Pilot Schools Network," which is also based on Boston Pilot schools.
    Primarily initiated by The Boston Pilot Schools were originally created in 1994 through an agreement among the Boston Teachers Union, the mayor and the Boston Public Schools. The agreement was initiated to counter charter school legislation that had recently passed which threatened to draw down the district's student base and resources. The pilot schools were granted "charter school" autonomy in five areas of school operation and design:

  • Budget
  • Staffing
  • Governance
  • Curriculum, assessment and instruction
  • Schedule
  • Appears fiscally sustainable Yes
    Program has undergone independent evaluation Every five years, each school undergoes a review process that is conducted, in part, by a team of independent evaluators (see question #9 "Components included," for more information on the review process).

    Also, the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE) serves as the coordinating organization for the network of Boston Pilot Schools and conducts quantitative analyses of the schools. See, for example, Strong Results, High Demand: A Four-Year Study of Boston's Pilot High Schools and Progress and Promise: A Report on the Boston Pilot Schools.
    Resources/links Demographics: Boston Public Schools,
    Program Web site:
    Other program resources: Dan French, Executive Director, Center for Collaborative Education; Tung & Ouimette. 2007. Strong Results, High Demand: A Four-Year Study of Boston's Pilot Schools. Center for Collaborative Education, Boston, MA; The Essential Guide to Pilot Schools, Center for Collaborative Education, Boston, MA; Progress and Promise: A Report on the Boston Pilot Schools. 2006. Center for Collaborative Education, Boston, MA; School/District Profiles, Massachusetts Department of Education; Boston Teachers Union Contract, Boston Teachers Union; Guidelines for Commonwealth Pilot Schools Option, Massachusetts Department of Education; Robert Frank, Director, Communications and Technology, Center for Collaborative Education

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted Michigan, which has until now left graduation requirement determinations to local districts, will require all students effective with the Class of 2011 to complete a challenging high school curriculum aligned with the courses experts say are most likely to prepare students for college and work. The state also makes available a "personal curriculum," allowing requirements to be tailored to students' personal needs without compromising rigor. Michigan's requirements will also require all students to complete an online learning experience–likely a valuable tool for preparing for the world of learning and work in the 21st century–and allow an exemption from the state requirements for students in high-performing schools.
    State or District Michigan
    Goals To ensure that Michigan's high school graduates have the necessary skills to succeed either in postsecondary education or in the workplace.
    Policy implications
  • Rigorous core coursework for all
  • Relevant, flexible learning environment
  • Demographics 2006 data (K-12):
    White: 71.6%
    Black: 20.3%
    Hispanic: 4.4%
    Asian/Pacific Islander: 2.4%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 1.0%
    Low-income: 35%
    Name of program The Michigan Merit High School Graduation Requirements
    Administrating agency (for state programs) The Michigan Department of Education and State Board of Education
    Program duration The course requirements and curriculum standards are effective for students entering the 8th grade in 2006 (class of 2011).  Also, the foreign language requirement is effective for students entering the 3rd grade in 2006 (class of 2016).
    Components included The Michigan Merit High School Graduation Requirements include the following:

  • Sixteen mandatory credits, which are aligned with a recommended college- and work-ready curriculum:
    • Four credits in English language arts
    • Four credits in math, including Geometry and Algebra I and II. At least one math course must be taken during the student's senior year
    • Three credits in lab science, including Biology and Chemistry or Physics
    • Three credits in social sciences including U.S. History & Geography, World History & Geography, Civics and Economics
    • One credit in Visual, Performing and Applied Arts
    • One credit in Physical Education and Health
    • All high school students must also participate in an online course or learning experience.

  • Effective for the class of 2016, the credit requirement will increase to 18 credits, to include two credits in world languages. Students may receive credit if they have had a similar learning experience in grades K-12.

  • Option for a student's parent to request a personal curriculum for the student, which is developed with a school counselor or other designee selected by the high school principal. The personal curriculum is intended for use by a small percentage of students who seek to exceed the graduation requirements, or for students with disabilities who need special accommodations or modifications.

  • Beginning with students entering the 8th grade in 2006 (Class of 2011), schools must offer 7th grade students the opportunity to create an educational development plan based on a career pathways program or similar career exploration program. All students must create a plan before entering high school.

  • The superintendent of public instruction may designate up to 15 specialty high schools that are exempt from certain requirements of the Michigan Merit High School Graduation Requirements. A school may be designated eligible for exemptions if the school:
    • Incorporates a significant reading and writing component throughout the curriculum.
    • Uses a specialized, innovative and rigorous curriculum in areas such as performing arts, foreign language, extensive use of internships or other learning innovations.
    • Demonstrates the following: mean scores from ACT math and science exams that exceed the district average by 10%; an 85% graduation rate; and enrollment of 75% of graduates into a postsecondary institution.
    Funding Schools are expected to fund the Michigan Merit High School Graduation Requirements through per pupil allocations; however, per pupil funding was not increased as a result of the new requirements.
  • Awarding credit is based on proficiency in expectations, not seat time and can be earned prior to a student's entering high school or by testing out.

  • Credits may be earned through one or more of the following: alternative course work, humanities course sequences, career and technical education, industrial technology courses or vocational education.

  • Credit can be earned through advanced studies such as accelerated course placement, advanced placement, dual enrollment, the international baccalaureate program or an early college/middle college program.

  • Requirement that the department of education develop subject area content expectations and subject area assessments to evaluate whether students have met those expectations.
  • Results Because the graduation requirements are still being implemented, there are no results at this time.
    Primarily initiated by In June 2004, Governor Granholm created the Lieutenant Governor's Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth (the Cherry Commission).  The commission's charge was to make recommendations for improving the skills of the workforce, doubling the percentage of Michigan residents with postsecondary degrees and aligning the state's educational institutions with economic opportunities of the state. The commission's final report included a recommendation to develop a rigorous set of standards to ensure that high school graduates have the skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary education and the workforce.

    The superintendent of public instruction, Michael Flanagan, assembled a research group to examine Michigan's high school graduation standards in 2005.  The work group made recommendations based upon research and experiences from other states, which were presented to Flanagan, who in turn presented them to the state board.  The "Michigan Merit Standard" was unanimously approved by the board in December 2005, and passed by the legislature and signed by the governor in the spring of 2006.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Maybe. While over the past several years Michigan has implemented K-8 Grade Level Content Expectations, which the graduation requirements build upon, there is no new money for the Michigan Merit graduation requirements.

    Proponents argue that many districts already had similar graduation requirements in place. In addition, districts have been given substantial flexibility in implementing the program requirements including scheduling and collaborative teaching and "sharing" of qualified teachers among districts.

    However, critics of the legislation have called it an "unfunded mandate."
    Program has undergone independent evaluation The department of education must submit the legislature an annual report to that will evaluate the overall success of the required curriculum, the rigor and relevance of the course work, the ability of public schools to implement the curriculum and course work and the impact of the curriculum on pupil success.
    Resources/links Demographics:
    Program duration: MICH. COMP. LAWS §§ 380.1278a(1),(2)
    Components: MICH. COMP. LAWS §§ 380.1278a, 380.1278b; 2006 MI S.B. 1124/2006 MI H.B 5606 bill analysis (see "Content"); Jan Ellis, Michigan Department of Education
    Funding: 2006 MI S.B. 1124/2006 MI H.B 5606 bill analysis (see "Fiscal Analysis"); Jan Ellis, Michigan Department of Education
    Goals: 2006 MI S.B. 1124/2006 MI H.B 5606 bill analysis (see "Background")
    Initiated by: 2006 MI S.B. 1124/2006 MI H.B 5606 bill analysis (see "Background")
    Appears fiscally sustainable: 2006 MI S.B. 1124/2006 MI H.B 5606 bill analysis (see "Arguments"); Jan Ellis, Michigan Department of Education
    Program evaluation: MICH. COMP. LAWS § 380.1278b(15)

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted A collaboration between the City University of New York (CUNY) system and the New York City Department of Education, College Now offers a model for other districts and states to encourage dual credit coursetaking among traditionally underserved and "middle range" (neither high- nor low-achieving) students, and provide outreach and scholarships to the students who need them most.
    State or District New York City Public Schools
    Goals To better prepare and increase the number of New York City public high school students going to and completing college.  According to Eric Hoffman, Associate Director of the CN Central Office, although the program is open to all students regardless of achievement level, the program strives to reach “middle-range” students (those between the high and low achievers), in particular. 
    Policy implications
  • Target the "forgotten half"
  • Encourage rigor, stretch for students in the middle
  • Demographics 2006 (K-12):
    White: 14.3%
    Black: 32.5%
    Hispanic: 39.2%
    Asian/Pacific Islanders: 13.5%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.5%
    Low-income: Not available
    Name of program College Now
    Administrating agency (for state programs) College Now (CN) is a collaborative program of the City University of New York (CUNY) and the New York City Department of Education.  Each CUNY college administers its own CN program, including hiring staff and instructors for the high school(s) it works with, collecting data and producing an annual report.  The College Now Central Office, located within CUNY’s Office of Academic Affairs, provides administrative, programming, and professional development assistance to all CN programs throughout the CUNY system, including distribution of funds.  Each participating college is required to submit its funding requests, data collection and annual report to the CN Central Office each year. 
    Program duration 1984 – present. 
    The first College Now program was started at Kingsborough College in 1984 then expanded to LaGuardia College 2 years later.  In 1999, the program expanded to include the entire CUNY system (17 colleges in all).  Currently, nearly three-quarters of all New York City public high schools participate in the program.  
    Components included

    College Now is a dual enrollment program that allows participating high school students to complete up to 16 credits of college-level courses that are taught at their high school and/or partner CUNY college(s).  The program also offers remediation courses, summer programs and CUNY college campus tours to students.

    College Now has a Web site with resources for students, parents, educators and staff, including information on:

    • Participating schools (high schools and colleges)
    • Available courses, projects and events for participating students, including summer programs
    • How to enroll in the program
    • Guides to finishing high school and transitioning to college, transferring College Now credit(s) to a college, and applying for scholarships and financial aid. 

    Additionally, the College Now Central Office has a Director, Associate Director and Program Coordinators who provide administrative support and technical assistance to all the College Now partnerships between high schools and colleges.  
    Partnering colleges and high schools also work together to establish school liaisons who are typically responsible for recruiting students (class/school-wide announcements, flyers, interviews) and teachers, collecting registration forms, monitoring attendance, counseling students and attending programmatic administrative meetings.  When the program runs on the college campus, liaisons tend to arrange for College Now administrators to visit high school classes to describe program opportunities and assist in bringing students to campus for program orientations.  Liaisons are often high school guidance staff, assistant principals or classroom teachers (teaching in the program) recommended by the principal for the position.

    Funding About two-thirds comes from the city of New York and the remaining amount comes from the state of New York. 

    Typically, an individual New York City public high school teams up with one or more of the 17 CUNY colleges to create a College Now partnership, which provides eligible students several ways to improve their high school performance and better prepare for college, including:

    • Completion of up to 16 credits worth of college classes that can be transferred to any CUNY college upon acceptance and enrollment through an established articulation agreement.  Students may also be able to transfer CN credits to other colleges outside the CUNY system.  Currently, the CN Central Office is working on articulation agreements with schools in the State University of New York (SUNY) system.
      Most classes are offered at the participating high school and taught by high school teachers selected and hired by the college(s) as adjunct professors. Students may also enroll in standard classes available at the college(s). In order to accommodate students’ (and teachers’) schedules, program courses and events are offered before and after school, on weekends, and during the summer. Each college has its own participation criteria and eligibility requirements for courses and events, which are noted on the CN Web site.  
    • Reading, writing and math remediation courses to better prepare students for college-level studies.  This part of the program is expanding to target 9th and 10th graders, in particular, who are struggling academically. 
    • Summer programs, which are 4 – 6 week highly engaging programs within specific academic and professional areas, such as arts/humanities/social sciences; health; journalism/radio/TV; and math/science/business.  The programs allow for career exploration and include courses offered for credit and non-credit, labs and other activities, such as rowing.  Programs are offered at individual colleges and all activities take place on the college campus, giving students a taste of college life, as well as the chance to meet and interact with CN students from other schools. 
    • CUNY college campus tours to allow participants to meet students and professors and get a feel for college.    
    • Cultural events, such as theater or dance performances and arts festivals.
    • Exclusive scholarship offers.

    It is not an absolute requirement to attend a high school with a College Now partnership in order to participate in the program.  Eligible participants include any New York City public high school student, homeschooled students who can provide proof of registration with the New York City Department of Education, and students with disabilities who attend private schools and have their tuition paid for with public funds. 

    Results Beginning in the 2003 – 2004 school year, the CN Central Office started analyzing its collected data on the program to help determine its success.  According to Eric Hoffman, Associate Director of the CN Central Office, analysis has shown that program participants are more likely to enter the CUNY system than non-participants, and have a higher retention rate in college.  Participants also tend to maintain a higher GPA and complete a greater number of credits their first year in college as compared to non-participants.  By the end of 2007, the CN Central Office hopes to have information on college graduation rates of program participants.    
    Primarily initiated by The first College Now program was initiated by Rachelle Goldsmith, an instructor at Kingsborough College who later became the first director of the program.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes.  However, additional funding is being sought through federal grants as well as corporate and private foundations primarily to support professional and curriculum development work to expand program activities beyond college-credit offerings.   
    Program has undergone independent evaluation No.  However, the CUNY College of Staten Island is having an independent evaluation being done of its CN program. 
    Resources/links Demographics:
    Program Web sites: College Now; Some CUNY colleges have Web sites for their College Now programs, which can be linked to from the main Web site. 
    Other program resources: Eric Hoffman, Associate Director, College Now Central Office. 

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted The "Met" model has been successfully serving at-risk students through personalized instruction, real-world experience, and individualized counseling, and helped catalyze Rhode Island's high school redesign initiative calling for an advisement system, individual learning plans, and active demonstration of student proficiency through portfolios and senior projects. The Met can serve as a model for other schools, districts and states seeking to personalize learning and improve outcomes for all students, including urban, at-risk youth.
    State or District Rhode Island
    Goals To provide education to one student at a time.  This is accomplished by focusing on student interests and by providing a safe and nurturing environment.
    Policy implications
  • Relevant, applied academic opportunities

  • Integrated curriculum

  • Parental involvement

  • Access to mentors from the "real world"

  • Enablement of student access to college

  • Student support systems
  • Demographics Metropolitan Career and Technical Center 2007 data (9-12):
    White: 28%
    Black: 26%
    Hispanic: 42.5%
    Asian/Pacific Islander: 1.9%
    Native American: 1.6%
    Low-income: 68%
    Name of program The Metropolitan Career and Technical Center or the "Met"
    Program duration 1996-present
    Components included
  • Network of seven small public high schools

  • Learning in the Real World

  • Advisory

  • Applied Academics

  • College Transition Program

  • Health and Wellness

  • Travel Opportunities
  • Funding The Met is funded by state appropriations and grants (there is no local district appropriation).
    Method Learning in the Real World

    Students participate in a program titled "Learning Through Interests," whereby students have the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom in a real-world working environment. Students are paired with adult mentors who share the students' interests. Twice a week, students work with their mentors and apply academic skills from the classroom.


    Beginning in 9th grade, students are divided into 15 student groups led by an advisor-teacher. The advisor follows them through all four years of college and guides each student's learning in every academic area.

    Every quarter, advisors meet with each student and the parents to develop, update and personalize the learning plan that guides the student's learning. The learning plan outlines the student's objectives and specific projects and papers that are related to the student's internship and interests.

    Instead of traditional examinations, students must prepare a portfolio every quarter that documents their research and projects. Students present the portfolio to their advisor, parents, mentor and classmates. Also, instead of a traditional report card, the student's advisor prepares a two page narrative that outlines the student's academic and personal growth.

    Applied Academics

    The Met schools focus on analysis and evaluation skills and require students to complete rigorous projects that are aligned with the school's learning goals:

  • Empirical reasoning
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Communication
  • Social reasoning
  • Personal qualities

  • College Transition Program

    College transition is facilitated in a number of ways. Most Met students take at least one college course during high school and are required to complete three to five college applications along with a college portfolio. Advisory groups also make college visits during junior and senior years.

    The Met also has a College Transition Team that builds relationships with colleges and helps with student placement. The team is also tasked with giving students tools to help them navigate the higher education system- such as helping students with financial aid applications and assisting with academic support for students in college.

    Health and Wellness

    With parental consent, students have the opportunity to speak with a member of the social work staff to help them resolve their problems. Every school has two social work interns that support the advisors and work one-on-one with each student. The Met has also recently opened its adolescent health center which partners with the local health institutions to provide health care.

    Travel Opportunities

    Every student is encouraged to travel as a way to broaden their world view and to inspire further learning. Examples of student travel include trips to South Africa, Brazil, Guatemala, and Zimbabwe, among others. Student travel is typically paid for by the student through fundraising, although the Met does assist some students with funding their travels.
  • The graduation rate for 2005-2006 school year was 90.4% compared to 85.2% statewide.

  • The attendance rate for 2003-2004 school year was 92.1% compared to 89.8% statewide.

  • According to the state's "School Accountability for Learning and Teaching" (SALT) survey, the Met ranks first in the state for parental involvement, school climate, quality of instruction, teacher availability, and second lowest in the state for drug availability.
  • Primarily initiated by In 1994, Rhode Island voters approved a public referendum on the question of starting a new high school and an accompanying bond issue for its creation. The referendum was initiated by a South Providence citizens' group along with support from the board of regents, the governor's office and the state assembly.

    The commissioner of education, Peter McWalters, requested that Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor (principal and assistant principal of Thayer High School in New Hampshire) design and implement a "school for the 21st century." The project to create the "Met" was a private/public partnership of the Rhode Island Department of Employment and Training's Human Resources Investment Council, The Annenberg Institute at Brown University, the CVS Corporation, and the Big Picture Company.

    The Met began operation in the fall of 1996 in downtown Providence.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes
    Program has undergone independent evaluation Yes. For example, Harvard researcher Eliot Levine wrote and published his doctoral thesis on the Met, titled, "One Kid at a Time: Big Lessons from a Small School."
    Resources/links Demographics: Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, School and District Statistics; The Metropolitan Career and Technical Center "Facts and Data" Web site
    Other Program Resouces: The Metropolitan Career and Technical Center Web site; Nancy Diaz, Co-Director and Principal

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted

    Districts are struggling to help students with disabilities make adequate yearly progress (AYP). The North East Independent School District in Texas has, therefore, instituted a special education initiative that uses a multi-pronged approach which addresses teacher professional development, data usage, and student supports to improve student achievement. Results have been impressive and this approach has local and state policy implications with regard to methods for better serving special student populations, including English language learners.

    State or District North East Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas
    Goals To make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in all schools by focusing, in part, on raising the achievement of special education students.
    Policy implications
  • Staff training
  • Data-informed practice
  • Student supports
  • Targeted approach.
  • Demographics North East Independent School District 2007 data (K-12):
    White: 39.6%
    Black: 9.3%
    Hispanic: 47.1%
    Asian: 3.7%
    Native American: 0.3%
    Name of program Special education initiative
    Administrating agency (for state programs) N/A
    Program duration 2004-2005 school year - present
    Components included District Plan student engagement strategies for special education students include:

  • Goal setting and frequent feedback with individual students

  • Collegial learning and planning

  • Three tiers of instructional intervention.
  • Funding No information available
    Method Goal setting and frequent feedback with individual student:

  • Provide training to teachers working with special education students. The training supports use of the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), analysis of TAKS/SDAA II (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and State-Developed Alternative Assessment II) and benchmark data in planning instruction for students. (Measured by increase in number of special education students taking and passing grade level TAKS/SDAA II tests.)
  • Implement efficient and consistent management of required paperwork and tracking of progress for students in special education on all campuses using software tools.
  • Implement training on transition procedures which meet the requirements of IDEA 2004 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004) and best practice criteria with all secondary special education staff using models in which teams are trained from each secondary campus. (Reviews of student folders will indicate appropriate transition plans. Teachers articulate the relationship of transition activities to their daily work with students in response to a five-point checklist completed with campus coordinators.)

    Collegial learning and planning:
  • Provide training to all teachers and paraprofessional staff working with special education students. The training equips staff to differentiate classroom instruction in ways that increase the success of students. (Measured by increase in pass rates of special education students from 0 weeks to 9 weeks.)
  • Enhance success in general curriculum for students with disabilities through collaborative support in all curriculum areas by developing training and support activities delivered by both school improvement and special education staff. (Measured by increase in number of teachers gaining knowledge of district scope and sequence through co-led activities.)
  • Provide training on a continuum of positive behavior support interventions for students with the disabilities of behavior and/or emotional disorders. These interventions include identification of replacement behaviors, development of effective behavior intervention plans, use of redirection models or inclusion support models and structure of more extensive behavioral support. (Measured by reduction in percentage of special education students served through disciplinary alternative education programs.)

    Three tier levels of instructional intervention
  • Develop, provide training on and implement an intervention model for students experiencing academic and behavior difficulty. This training should result in the implementation of appropriate interventions using the Three Tier Model of Intervention prior to a student's consideration for special education or dyslexia diagnostic testing and services. (Measured by reduction in number of referrals for testing in special education or dyslexia which do not result in placement.)
  • Develop and provide training on district models for serving special education students including, co-teaching and content mastery. (Program elements measured through classroom walk-throughs using district checklists which meet NCLB criteria for research-based best practice programs.)
  • Results
  • District went from one school ranked "exemplary" in 2004-2005, to 11 schools ranked "exemplary" the following year.
  • All schools that failed to make AYP in 2004-2005 passed the following year.
  • Ninety percent of students with disabilities were assessed at grade-level in 2005-2006.
  • Primarily initiated by In the 2004-2005 school year, 10 of 61 schools failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) as required by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). As a result, the district took steps to make sure that the failing schools did not continue to fail. The district used, in part, ideas that they received from a book titled Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning. The ideas from the book gave schools in the district a way to understand the vast amount of data available on each student.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes
    Program has undergone independent evaluation No
    Resources/links Demographics: North East Independent School District Web site, Student Data
    Program resources: North East Independent School District plan (2007-2008); NEISD Web site; Education Week, Christina Samuels, "Texas District Makes Gains with Special Education," "Team Teaching Key to Turnaround" 

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted This program, which offers the opportunity for students who have completed all their graduation requirements to begin either postsecondary studies or technical certification, provides one solution for policymakers seeking to make the senior year more meaningful. It additionally saves students and their families money, since tuition costs are covered by the state, and course credits are recognized by a broad coalition of postsecondary institutions in the state.
    State or District Virginia
    Goals To better prepare students for life after high school, and to reduce the cost of college tuition and technical training.
    Policy implications
  • Resource efficiency
  • Curricular acceleration
  • Demographics 2006 (K-12):
    White: 58.8%
    Black: 26.6%
    Hispanic: 7.5%
    Asian/Pacific Islander: 5.1%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.3%
    Low-income: 31.1%
    Name of program Senior Year Plus
    Administrating agency (for state programs) Virginia Department of Education
    Program duration 2003-present
    Components included Includes the Early College Scholars and Path to Industry Certification programs, both allowing high school students (seniors for Early College Scholars program and both juniors and seniors in Path to Industry Certification program) to begin college coursework while still in high school. Early College Scholars program is supported by the Virginia Virtual Advanced Placement School and Commonwealth College Course Collaborative, a set of 13 credit hours accepted at all participating postsecondary institutions for degree credit.
    Funding Virginia operates on a two-year budget cycle. As of September 2006 budget for 2006-2008 has not yet been approved. For 2004-2006 biennium, Legislature appropriated $712,082 for Path to Industry Certification and $500,000 to support the Virtual Advanced Placement School.
    Method High school seniors complete 15 units of college credit via dual enrollment, the Virginia Virtual Advanced Placement School, or Cambridge, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses at their home high schools. To participate, students must have at least a "B" average, be working toward an Advanced Studies Diploma, and complete college-level work through one of the aforementioned methods. The related Commonwealth College Course Collaborative is a set of 13 credit hours accepted at all participating postsecondary institutions for degree credit. The Path to Industry Certification Program, available to all districts and community colleges in the state, allows high school juniors and seniors who do not have plans for college to simultaneously complete high school graduation requirements and pursue technical certification. Subject to available funding, the program pays for the student's tuition up to the in-state rate, applicable community college fees, textbook costs and certification exam fees. Students also complete a career assessment of the school's choice to determine potential career interests. Participating students likewise have access to One-Stop Center employment services. Participating students and their parents, the high school principal, the high school counselor and the community college coordinator must also sign a compact clarifying the respective responsibilities of the student, parent, high school, and Virginia Community College System.
    Results Students in the Early College Scholars program must earn 15 units of potentially transferable college credit to receive the Early College Scholars Certificate. In spring 2005, 7,233 seniors were reported to the Department of Education as Early College Scholars, having completed all the requirements set forth in the Early College Scholars Agreement. In spring 2006, the number of seniors reported to the Department of Education as Early College Scholars had increased to 8,564. A spring 2006 survey indicated that 28,289 high school students in the state had signed Early College Scholars agreements.

    Students in the Path to Industry Certification program must sign a Path to Industry Certification Compact stating "that the student will complete all requirements for a standard or advanced studies diploma, including high school academic and/or career and technical education course requirements that lead to a selected industry certification." In 2003-2004, 3,314 industry certification examinations were passed by students. This number rose to 4,806 during the 2004-2005 school year.
    Primarily initiated by Senior Year Plus was created by former Governor Mark R. Warner as part of his Education for a Lifetime initiative.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes
    Program has undergone independent evaluation No
    Resources/links Demographics:
    Program Web site: Senior Year Plus
    Other program resources: Tabitha Foreman, High School Initiatives Specialist, Virginia Department of Education

    Highlights of Local Initiatives
    Why this initiative is highlighted This program allows students who have failed the end-of-course exams required for high school graduation in Virginia to receive tailored, online (anytime, anywhere) tutorials, as well as practice assessments and an online Algebra I readiness diagnostic.
    State or District Virginia
    Goals To help students meet the state's verified credit requirements to graduate from high school.
    Policy implications
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Point of need support
  • Support tailored to core curriculum standards
  • Demographics 2006 (K-12):
    White: 58.8%
    Black: 26.6%
    Hispanic: 7.5%
    Asian/Pacific Islander: 5.1%
    American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.3%
    Low-income: 31.1%
    Name of program Project Graduation
    Administrating agency (for state programs) Virginia Department of Education
    Program duration 2003-present
    Components included Web site with resources for students, parents and counselors, Project Graduation hotline
    Funding Virginia operates on a two-year budget cycle. A budget for 2006-2008 was not approved as of September 2006. For the 2004-2006 biennium the legislature appropriated $3,130,990 for Project Graduation.
    Method Provides additional opportunities for students to complete the end-of-course exams (referred to in the state as "verified units of credit") required to earn a high school diploma. The project offers online tutorials in Algebra I and reading, a link to and information about the algebra readiness diagnostic test, practice assessments to help students prepare for the end-of-course (EOC) assessments in reading, writing, Algebra I, Algebra II, geometry, chemistry, biology and earth science, released Standards of Learning tests, information about transferring credits and obtaining a waiver from the verified credit requirement, substitute tests for earning verified credit, and general information about the requirements to complete a standard Virginia high school diploma, an advanced studies diploma, modified standard diploma and special diploma.
    Results The class of 2004 was the first class required to complete a minimum of six verified credits (exit exams), including two credits in reading and writing, to graduate from high school. Pass rates on the verified credits in Algebra I, Algebra II and geometry have increased between the 2002-2003 baseline year and 2004-2005, the most recent year for which data are available. During that time period, pass rates rose from 78% to 84% for Algebra I, 79% to 81% for geometry, and 81% to 87% for Algebra II.

    The number of students logging in for online tutorials has increased substantially during the initiative. From February to August 2004 – the first period during which the tutorials were available – 3,341 students participated in tutorials in reading. This rose to 7,994 students during the 2004-2005 school year, and to 8,837 students during the 2005-2006 school year. The number of students taking algebra tutorials more than doubled from 3,376 during January-August 2005 to 8,351 during the 2005-2006 school year.

    In addition, the state has seen a modest improvement in graduation rates since the 2003-2004 school year, when students were first required to pass the verified units of credit to graduate from high school. The state graduation rate rose from 73.4% in 2003-2004 to 73.6% in 2004-2005. The 2005-2006 graduation rate is not available at this time.
    Primarily initiated by Project Graduation was initiated by former Governor Mark R. Warner in an effort to assist students who needed to pass Standards of Learning tests (part of Virginia’s assessment system) to graduate.
    Appears fiscally sustainable Yes
    Program has undergone independent evaluation No
    Resources/links Demographics:
    Program Web site: Project Graduation
    Other program resources: Tabitha Foreman, High School Initiatives Specialist, Virginia Department of Education

    © 2013 by the Education Commission of the States (ECS). All rights reserved. ECS is the only nationwide, nonpartisan interstate compact devoted to education.

    To request permission to excerpt part of this publication, either in print or electronically, please fax a request to the attention of the ECS Communications Department, 303.296.8332 or e-mail

    Helping State Leaders Shape Education Policy