Idaho graduation rates show improvement

Idaho’s high school graduation rates showed some improvement last year.

According to the 2014-15 numbers, released Friday by the State Department of Education, 78.9 percent of seniors received their high school diploma. The 2013-14 graduation rate was 77.3 percent.

The improvement comes as high school graduation rates have come under increased public and political scrutiny. Graduation rates were long considered one of Idaho’s K-12 success stories — but as Idaho Education News first reported in December, Idaho’s 2013-14 rate ranked 41st in the nation.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra was quick to praise the new numbers.

“It is positive movement,” she said in a news release Friday afternoon.

Here are a few other questions — and answers — about the new numbers:

How does this affect Idaho’s national ranking? Too early to say. Those rankings come from the U.S. Department of Education, which didn’t release state-by-state data for 2013-14 until last December.

What’s the dropout rate? Idaho’s dropout rate went down — albeit slightly. The 2014-15 dropout rate came in a 2.6 percent, compared to 2.9 percent in 2013-14.

Why the discrepancy between graduation rates and dropout rates? The 78.9 percent graduation rate does not include students who receive a GED, special education students who received a diploma under an adapted learning plan; and students who are earning graduation credits in an alternative school. It also doesn’t include students who fall through the bureaucratic cracks — such as students who transferred without proper paperwork.

None of these students are incorporated into the graduation rate — or the dropout rate.

How does Idaho calculate graduation rates? The 2014-15 numbers reflect a change in the way Idaho calculates its graduation rates — a change that brings Idaho in line with national practice.

The state now tracks the four-year progress of students, from ninth grade on. In other words, the 2014-15 graduation rate reflects the percentage of students who entered ninth grade in 2011-12, and received a diploma within the four-year window.

And this is a new calculation, right? Yes.

For years, Idaho used a less rigorous method to track graduation rates — looking only at the percentage of 12th graders who graduated by the end of the school year.

Idaho used the four-year tracking process for the first time in 2013-14, resulting in a significant decline in the graduation rate.

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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