Virginia's Alternative Education Center Boosts Graduation Rate by 19 Percent in Two Years

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New Personalized, Digital Curriculum Helps At-risk Students Stay in School and Graduate

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In two short years, Virginia's New Directions Alternative Education Center (New Directions), a high school focused on reaching students who do not fit well into a traditional high school, successfully increased the graduation rate from 78 percent to 97 percent, an improvement of nearly 20 percent. During the same time, student credit accrual skyrocketed from 2.4 to 5.3 credits per year, and school-wide pass rates on the state's Standards of Learning examination jumped from 61 percent to 89 percent.

So, what's made such a difference for students who are at risk of falling behind?

New Directions, located in Prince William County, made a radical decision at the beginning of the 2008-09 school year to redesign its schedule into a 4x4 modified semester-long block format. Students began taking two traditional and two digital courses each semester via an educational platform called NovaNET® from Pearson.

NovaNET enables students to progress at their own pace while it monitors their progress and provides personalized, immediate feedback. Students progress to higher level content only when they master each lesson.

This flexible, alternative scheduling approach aided by the digital, adaptive learning system helps educate students who need to recover lost credits, retake failed courses, accrue credits, or get supplemental help with existing classes. By making a systematic change, students were offered a new avenue to be successful in school and earn their diplomas, according to school officials.

"Students are scheduled according to their credit requirements, employment or other external factors. Flexible scheduling allows our students and faculty to maximize instructional time while honoring their 'real world' responsibilities in the community," explains Robert Eichorn, principal at New Directions.

He continues, "At New Directions, we are data driven. We tracked data prior to our 2008 expansion and compared it over a two-year period. Each year, we added a specific component to increase achievement including the creation of a virtual academic advisor for every student, the creation and use of state standards remediation packets for state test preparation and the scheduling of all digital learning students for a one-day review session prior to state-wide testing."

New Directions, in collaboration with Pearson Digital Learning, hosted the first Prince William County Public Schools Professional Learning Community meeting in 2009. This opportunity created an environment for sharing successes and addressing the needs of all schools serving high school students in the county.

At the beginning of the 2010 school year, traditional high schools in Prince William County adopted the strategies of New Directions and implemented NovaNET. This strategic partnership aligned instructional pacing, classroom practices, and course options. As a result, students were able to transfer seamlessly between schools, recover academic credit, and engage in remediation activities in preparation for the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) examinations on a year-round basis.

High schools in Prince William County Public School District have consistently ranked in the top 10 percentile of high schools across the country. Dr. Steven L. Walts, superintendent of schools, said in a recent news article, "We strive to challenge each of our students so that they can achieve their very best."

More information about NovaNET can be found at More information about New Directions can be found at

About Pearson
Pearson has a vision of effective education: a virtuous circle of learning where powerful technologies enable teachers to assess students unobtrusively, diagnose their learning needs swiftly, prescribe personalized learning, monitor student progress, and provide ongoing feedback to students, teachers, and parents. It begins by optimizing assessment data and putting it to work for continuous improvement in student progress and teaching effectiveness. For more, visit

New Directions Alternative Education Center: Robert Eichorn, Principal, 571-722-7445, eichorrl (at) pwcs (dot) edu

Pearson: Stacy Skelly, 800-745-8489, stacy.skelly (at) pearson (dot) com


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New Directions Alternative Education Center
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