Idaho’s 2017 graduation rate unchanged from 2016

Idaho’s 2017 high school graduation rate is unchanged from 2016, according to data released Wednesday by the State Department of Education.

Once again, 79.7 percent of eligible students graduated in 2017.

In a news release late Wednesday afternoon, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra hailed the new numbers as a slight improvement. And indeed, the improvement was minuscule: from 79.66 percent in 2016 to 79.67 percent, or .01 percent. Based on the size of the statewide student population — the 22,659 students who entered ninth grade in the fall of 2013 – .01 percent translates to about two students.

Ybarra pointed to bright spots, in urban and rural areas alike: 36 percent of the state’s high schools posted graduation rates of more than 90 percent. But she also noted that virtual and alternative high schools posted the state’s lowest graduation rates. “Clearly, we see that students who qualify as ‘at risk’ are an area for continued focus,” she said.

Ybarra’s opponent in the May 15 Republican primary, Wilder School District Superintendent Jeff Dillon, said “we can do better.”

“Staying the course is not going to work for Idaho,” Dillon said. “We’re not meeting the needs of the 4,000-some kids who aren’t graduating.”

Dillon also said Idaho’s stagnant graduation rate has cost Idahoans at least $350 million — his calculation of the investment made in educating those who don’t graduate. “And those who don’t graduate will end up having a negative impact on the economy.”

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Wilder High School’s 2017 graduation rate came in at 68.9 percent, according to data from the state.

This is the third year Idaho has used a nationally accepted metric to calculate graduation rates, tracking student “cohorts” from ninth grade through 12th grade. When Idaho first used this method in 2015, the state’s graduation rate came in at 78.9 percent.

Idaho’s numbers have lagged behind the national average in recent years. In 2016, Idaho’s graduation rate ranked No. 40 in the nation; the national average was a record 84.1 percent. In 2015, Idaho’s graduation rate ranked No. 39. The national graduation rate for 2017 is not yet available.

The State Board of Education wants Idaho’s graduation rate to improve to 95 percent by 2023. Last year, the Legislature approved increased funding for college and career advising and the State Board has requested an additional $5 million this year to expand those efforts to freshmen and sophomore students.

“The bottom line is, it will take a few years to see if these efforts have a positive effect on our high school graduation percentage,” said Mike Keckler, the communications officer for the State Board. “It is the board’s hope that the college and career advising money will help us get there.”

The graduation rates are determined by the number of students who graduate in four years divided by the number of students who started ninth grade. The number is adjusted when students transfer within the state or leave Idaho. In 2017, 18,053 students graduated high school; four years earlier, 22,659 students entered ninth grade, according to SDE reports.

The outliers

  • Twenty schools graduated 100 percent of their eligible seniors. These represent some of Idaho’s smallest districts, with an average student “cohort” size of 19 students. (This list includes 17 districts: Carey, Notus, Melba, North Gem, Raft River, Clark County, Glenns Ferry, Bliss, Salmon River, Kootenai, Kendrick, Deary, Leadore, Rockland, Mullan, Murtaugh and Midvale. Three charter schools — Victory, Compass and Liberty — had a 100 percent graduation rate.).
  • Here are the best graduation rates from schools with more than 100 students: West Ada’s Renaissance (99.4 percent), Sugar-Salem (97.4 percent) and Teton (97.2 percent).
  • The West Ada School District, Idaho’s largest district, has a 84.7 percent graduation. The Boise School District’s graduation rate was 82.9 percent.
  • The Lewiston School District recorded a 95.4 percent rate, the highest among larger districts with cohort sizes exceeding 300 students.
  • Idaho’s virtual schools posted some of Idaho’s lowest graduation rates. The Idaho Distance Education Academy posted the highest rate among virtual schools, at 75.5 percent.
  • Of Idaho’s larger high schools, 10 graduated more than 90 percent of their students — Eagle (West Ada), Madison, Hillcrest (Bonneville), Rocky Mountain (West Ada), Timberline (Boise), Highland (Pocatell0), Lake City (Coeur d’Alene), Boise and Capital (Boise).

Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this report.

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