State’s graduation rate improves; more schools have 90 percent of students graduate in 4 years

By Ellie Price
The Statehouse File

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s graduation rate for the 2010-2011 school year improved to 87.5 percent, a record-high rate since Indiana began measuring four-year graduation rates in 2005.

The rate increased by 1.6 percentage points over last year and 4.3 percentage points over the 2009 rate.

2011 Graduation Rate Breakdown

  • 85.7 percent of students graduated within four years
  • 6.1 percent of students are reported dropouts or undetermined, which means they either moved out of state, dropped out or left school without formally withdrawing
  • 6.3 percent of students are still in school
  • 0.4 percent of students earned a General Education Development (GED) diploma
  • 1.2 percent of students earned a Special Education Certificate
  • 0.2 percent of students earned a non-diploma Course Completion Certificate

2011 Public High School Graduation Rate Breakdown

  • 90-100 percent graduation rate – 171 schools (45 percent)
  • 80-89.9 percent graduation rate – 142 schools (38 percent)
  • 70-79.9 percent graduation rate – 39 schools (10 percent)
  • 60-69.9 percent graduation rate – 11 schools (3 percent)
  • Less than 60 percent graduation rate – 14 schools (4 percent)

Source: Indiana Department of Education

This year, a record-high 171 public schools reached more than 90 percent or more of their students graduating in four years, a goal set by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

“I commend Indiana’s educators, students, parents and community members for their efforts to increase graduation rates,” Bennett said in a statement. “In today’s world, graduating from high school with a meaningful diploma is critical to achieving any measure of success in life. To see so many more high school students reach this essential milestone is inspiring, and I am thankful for the hard-working teachers and leaders in our schools who helped them get there.”

The graduation rate is considered a “cohort” rate because it begins with a class of freshmen and the class expands and contracts as students transfer in and out of school during the years that follow. The method is considered a more accurate measure of the percentage of students who graduate in four years or less.

Brownsburg High School is one of the schools that met Bennett’s goal with a graduation rate of 95.1 percent last year.

Donna Petraits, communication director at Brownsburg School Corporation, said the district is very proud of the graduation rate because their percentage of students graduating is the highest it has ever been.

“Primarily, I think our success is due to the fact that we really embrace the vision of this school corporation, which is higher achievement together,” Petraits said. “The commitment of our staff and our teachers is a huge part of why this graduation rate is so high. We work with kids from their freshman year on to make sure they’re on track.”

Petraits also said the Brownsburg teachers and staff encourage at-risk students to pick up necessary credit hours in their credit recovery program.

Fort Wayne Community Schools increased its graduation rate for the 2010-2011 school year, with 88.1 percent of seniors graduating.

“This is the fourth consecutive year that we have increased and the fourth year we are higher than the state average,” said Krista Stockman, public information officer at Fort Wayne Community Schools. “That’s something we’re really proud of, especially being an urban district.”

Stockman said the graduating class of 2011 was the first to go through a freshmen initiative program. Although freshmen students still attended a high school with students in upper grade levels, they attended classes with the same group of students and teachers.

Stockman said the district has focused on making sure staff members understood the importance of building relationships with students, which she said has contributed to an increase in the graduation rate.

Although Indianapolis Public Schools had a 64.6 percent graduation rate for the 2010-2011 school year, IPS spokeswoman Kim Hooper said the rate has increased by about 20 percent since 2006.

Hooper said combining four junior highs with senior high schools contributed to this year’s increase of six percent.

“The longer kids are in the same building with the same teachers, there’s more of a likelihood that they will graduate,” Hooper said. “Because of that, we are able to keep kids in school and prevent more of them from dropping out.”

The Department of Education plans to publish the graduation rate information at www.doe.in.gov/improvement/accountability/graduation-cohort-rate.

Ellie Price is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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