CRHS graduation rate explained

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While the IAVA is responsible for lowering the CRHS graduation rate from 100 to 81 percent, it offers 300 students high quality educational opportunities that may not otherwise be available to them. (Press file photo)

By Molly Moser

A recent article in the Telegraph Herald raised concerns over education at Clayton Ridge when it listed the school’s graduation rate at 81.01 percent, nearly 10 percent lower than the statewide average of 91 percent. In fact, according to Superintendent Shane Wahls, in 2017 Clayton Ridge High School graduated 100 percent of its senior class. 

“The reason for the much lower percentage that was in the TH is because of the Iowa Virtual Academy,” said Wahls. “It is unfortunate that this affects our district graduation rate and state assessment scores in a negative manner, but there are some very positive things with the virtual school that get overlooked.”

The Iowa Virtual Academy, or IAVA, uses an online curriculum to offer Iowa students in grades K-12 an alternative to a traditional education. The mission of IAVA is to personalize learning for each student and prepare all students for productive and healthy lifestyles in a diverse global society. Teachers learn about student interests and design an individual education plan at a pace that helps each student master learning rather than cover content.

The program, launched by Clayton Ridge Superintendent Alan Nelson in 2012, gives students with medical conditions and even terminal illnesses the opportunity to continue learning. “Some of our students are high-level athletes that travel nationally or internationally, such as hockey players and gymnasts,” said Wahls. 

IAVA is a tuition-free, statewide public education program, and its head of schools, Steve Hoff, is based at Clayton Ridge. Approximately 300 students are enrolled in the school, which employs 22 faculty. “All of their programming is done online. Parents serve as learning coaches for their children, and they are accountable to the department of education to administer the same required assessments and have the same graduation requirements,” said Wahls. 

Online planning and assessment tools include hands-on materials ranging from textbooks to telescopes, rocks to dirt, illustrated children’s stories, and more. The virtual school offers four versions of core classes in math, science, English and history – a standard version, a comprehensive version, honors courses and advanced placement courses. Each version requires more independence and self-discipline than the last. 

Classes may take place online, but the school community organizes monthly activities where parents, students, and staff share their successes, helpful hints, and more.

“Other positives are that this type of learning also meets the needs of a large number of students that may not be successful in the classroom due to behaviors, anxiety, or having been the victim of bullying,” said Wahls. “This is an excellent means for them to receive their education.”

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