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Aurora Institute

Personalizing State Policy with Extended Graduation Rate

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): State Policy, Redesign Accountability Systems for Continuous Improvement, Base Learning on Mastery, not Seat Time


One of the key elements of personalization in education is providing flexibility for students who need more time.

Yet, only 12 states have embraced the extended-year graduation rates initiative that provides incentives for districts and schools to serve those students who need more time to graduate. I am wondering what impact this is going to have on districts wanting to apply for RTT—will districts in the 38 states that are not using the extended-year graduation rates be able to truly compete?

There are many reasons that students could need more time: they were underserved in earlier years in schools and are now two or more grade levels behind; they need to work to support their family; they take care of family members when illness strikes; or they begin to take on tribal responsibilities. The extended-year graduation rates also balance against heavy-handed use of school discipline policies, especially for young people of color who are disproportionately suspended and/or expelled. Some students leave school because they are bored or don’t see the value of more schooling; however, a few months in the secondary labor market can be enough to turn them around with new motivation to get their diploma and go to college. In fact, some of our best competency models are designed for students who are off-track, including Boston Day and Evening Academy and Diploma Plus.

Extended graduation rates need to become a standard part of our educational policies.  They certainly are in Singapore — they offer different time-paths for the same curriculum with some students completing the curriculum in four years, others in five.

For states wanting to take advantage of next generation learning, it’s time to upgrade graduation policies so that students can graduate from high school in four, five, or maybe even three years. The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) has a great webinar on the topic: Creating State Accountability Systems that Measure College and Career Readiness for All Students.


Chris Sturgis is Principal of MetisNet, a consulting firm that specializes in supporting foundations and special initiatives in strategy development, coaching and rapid research. She is strategic advisor to the Youth Transition Funders Group and manages the Connected by 25 blog.