Dillon says his district made a mistake reporting graduation data

State superintendent candidate and Wilder superintendent Jeff Dillon took issue this week with the release of Wilder High School’s 2017 graduation rate, claiming the number is inaccurate and blaming his principal for a reporting mistake.

The State Department of Education released 2017 graduation rates for all Idaho high schools Wednesday. Wilder’s rate was reported at 68.9 percent, well below the state average of 79.7 percent.

Wilder Superintendent Jeff Dillon

Dillon says Wilder’s graduation rate is closer to 93 percent, but he says his principal did not properly appeal preliminary data to the SDE months before the final data was released this week.

“He didn’t understand his role. He’s from out of state,” Dillon said.

The SDE allows school leaders to appeal their graduation rates before the February release of official numbers. The appeals window is about two months long. If an administrator can locate students who did not graduate, but instead transferred to another school or are home-schooled, those students will not count as dropouts. Documentation is required to verify the student is enrolled elsewhere.

At issue are 10 of Wilder’s 30 students who were labeled as not graduating on time, Dillon said. Wilder did participate in the appeals process, appealing three of the 10 students. The SDE denied two of those appeals. Dillon said his principal should have appealed all 10, because he says he has evidence the remaining seven students transferred and are not dropouts.

“It was a Wilder error,” Dillon said. “The (principal) didn’t understand the process and I didn’t question him enough to make sure he understood the process.”

It’s now too late for schools to appeal graduation rates to the SDE, which is led by Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra — Dillon’s opponent in the May 15 Republican primary.

When on the campaign trail, Dillon said he plans to talk about both graduation numbers — 68.9 percent and 93 percent.

“I’m not going to hide anything, I have the documentation and I’m confident we just missed that on the upload,” Dillon said. “I feel good about where we are and what we’ve done. We didn’t let those kids fall through the cracks.”

Dillon has served as Wilder’s superintendent and elementary principal since 2012. Wilder High’s graduation rate has exceeded 80 percent the last three years:

  • 2016 — 87.9 percent.
  • 2015 — 88 percent.
  • 2014 — 83 percent.

For more data on Wilder schools and graduation rates around the state, go to IdahoEdTrends.org.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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