One of the state’s largest and most controversial virtual charter schools graduated a smaller percentage of students than nearly every other public school in the state in 2018, new state data shows.
About 2 percent of Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy’s 1,009 seniors graduated, putting the school’s graduation rate below just two others — a school that caters to students with significant intellectual and behavioral disabilities and an adult high school that enrolls only a couple dozen students each and graduated no students last year. Across the state, the vast majority of schools graduate at least three-quarters of their senior students.
The graduation data, released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Education, comes as Indiana education officials are considering ways to curb growth and add oversight for online charter schools, which tend to receive low grades from the state and have few students pass state tests.
Leaders from Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy have said previously that the school was designed to serve students who are far behind their peers academically. The school did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the graduation data.
Graduation rate data is one of the few state metrics available for measuring the performance of students at Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, which opened in 2017. The school, which more than doubled in size to 6,232 students since last fall, did not receive a grade from the state or the federal government in 2018 because too few students took state exams. The students who were tested at IVPA posted poor results: 5.7 percent passed both state English and math exams.
Every online school in Indiana graduated fewer students than the state as a whole, though some, such as Indiana Connections Academy and Hoosier Academy Virtual, which is now closed, graduated nearly twice as many as their online peers. Generally, virtual schools have seen graduation rates increase over the past couple years.
At Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy’s sister school, Indiana Virtual School, about 24 percent of seniors graduated in 2018, compared to 6.5 percent in 2017 and 5.7 percent in 2016. But it appears that some of that change could be attributed to IVPA opening. Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy started with about 3,000 students in 2017, nearly all of whom came from Indiana Virtual School. Although Indiana Virtual School graduated more students in 2018 than in 2017, its graduating class shrunk by nearly two-thirds — from 985 to 354.
Indiana Virtual School received its third F grade in a row from the state last fall. With their combined enrollment numbers, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy could together bring in upward of $35 million from the state for this school year. A 2017 Chalkbeat investigation of Indiana Virtual School revealed widespread low performance and questionable business and spending practices.
The state does not release data for schools with fewer than 10 students in the graduating class to comply with federal privacy laws.
Lawmakers are expected to consider recommendations for improving virtual schools during this year’s legislative session, which begins on Thursday.