Idaho’s 2022 graduation rate shows continued stagnancy

Idaho’s 2022 four-year high school graduation rate fell slightly to 79.9% — a number that’s held relatively steady since 2016, with the exception of a 2020, pandemic-era boost. 

All told, more than 18,000 teens graduated on time from Idaho’s public schools last year — and about 4,500 did not.

Every year, the graduation rate falls farther and farther behind the state’s ever-increasing graduation rate targets. 

Class  Four-year grad rate State grad rate goals NCES national grad rate averages
2015 78.9% Not available Not available
2016 79.7% (baseline year) Not available
2017 79.7% 82.2% 85%
2018 80.6% 84.8% 85%
2019 80.7% 87.3% 86%
2020 82.1% 89.9% 86.5%
2021 80.1% 92.4% Not available
2022 79.9% 94.9% Not available

Data source: State Department of Education

The State Board of Education is extending the 2022 graduation rate goal of 95% to 2023 “due to disruptions related to COVID-19,” according to Idaho’s consolidated plan. 

To read more about grad rate goals, go to page 14 of this document

Idaho is behind national graduation rate averages as well. 

The National Center for Education Statistics’ most recent data on graduation rates, published in December, shows that in 2019-2020, the national average was 86.5%. (The NCES is especially careful with its data, so its information releases are always delayed by a few years). 

That year, Idaho’s average was 82.1% — more than four percentage points behind. 

And, according to NCES, that was at least the fourth consecutive year that Idaho’s graduation rates were below the national average. 

In 2020 — when there was a graduation rate boost — certain graduation requirements were waived, like the senior project and college entrance exams. Teachers may also have been more lenient with schoolwork and grading as they extended grace to students who were thrust into remote learning due to Covid-19. 

Grad rates at the top and bottom, and at Idaho’s largest districts and charters

Overall, 15 local education agencies or LEAs (which include traditional school districts and charter schools) had perfect graduation rates of 100%. However, most of those LEAs had cohorts (students tracked from 9th to 12th grade) of 30 or fewer.

At the other end of the scale, 15 LEAs had a graduation rate of less than 65%, with cohort sizes ranging from 2 to more than 400. Most of those were charter or nontraditional LEAs. 

Another way to consider the data is by looking at Idaho’s largest LEAs, according to EdNews’ most recent enrollment numbers

Here’s a look at grad rates among Idaho’s five largest traditional school districts:

District Graduation rate
Pocatello 89.6%
Bonneville 88.3%  
West Ada 84.5%
Boise 83.3%
Nampa 75.5%

Data source: State Department of Education

And here are grad rates for Idaho’s five largest charters:

Charter Graduation Rate
Compass Charter 100%
Idaho Arts Charter 69.4%
Sage International 83.3%
Inspire Academics, Inc. 82.4%
Idaho Virtual Academy 51.9%

Data source: State Department of Education

To see how your district or charter did, go here.

Demographically, troubling gaps persist when it comes to graduation rates

At-risk students are less likely to graduate, the 2022 data shows. 

Students who are economically disadvantaged, with disabilities, in foster care, experiencing  homelessness, English learners, or migratory had graduation rates below the state average. The same was true for students who are American Indian or Alaskan Native, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, two or more races, or male. 

The State Board has also established graduation rate goals as determined by demographics, setting higher goals for some groups than others. In each case, students have fallen behind the goals. 

Student group 2022 graduation rate 2022 state goal
Asian or Pacific Islander 85.4% 95.8%
White 81.9% 95.3%
State average 79.9% 94.9%
Two or more races 76.5% 94.3%
American Indian or Alaskan Native 73.4% 89.6%
Hispanic or Latino 73% 93.4%
Native Hawaiian/Other pacific Islander 71.6% 92.4%
Economically disadvantaged 69.6% 93%
Black/African American 69.1% 94.5%
English learners 65.4% 93.3%
Students with disabilities 56.6% 90.1%
For a complete list of high school graduation rates by demographics, go here

Four-year vs. five-year graduation rates

The data in this article is based on four-year graduation rates. That means students are tracked from 9th through 12th grades, so those who drop out before senior year are accounted for in final tallies.

Some, including former State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, have argued that five-year graduation rates are a more accurate indicator of Idaho students’ success. In a 2022 opinion column for EdNews, Ybarra wrote that that’s especially true for Idaho’s demographic groups “that face special challenges.”

“Five-year graduation rates for each of those groups were at least 3 percentage points higher than their four-year rates,” she wrote. 

Four-year data does leave out students who needed a few extra credits or classes, and graduated just a few months after their peers. Those students may have been catching up for a number of reasons, such as an extended illness, a death in the family, complications caused by the pandemic, or other extenuating circumstances.

EdNews profiled one such student, Phoenix Johansen, who overcame great odds to graduate last summer — just a month after peers. Johansen’s accomplishment is one of many not reflected in the 2022 four-year graduation rate.

Here’s a look at five-year graduation rates over the years, which had shown slow but steady improvement until 2021, when the rate dipped by nearly two percentage points. 

Year Five-year graduation rate State goal for five-year graduation rate
2017 82% Baseline year
2018 82.8% 84.7%
2019 83.3% 87.4%
2020 84.1% 90.1%
2021 82.3% 92.8%
2022 Not yet available 95.5%
More reading: What happens after students graduate — how many go on to college? During the pandemic, go-on rates for high-performing demographics dipped. Read more here.

EdNews’ Data Analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report. 

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Reporter Carly Flandro works in EdNews’ East Idaho bureau. A former high school English teacher, she writes about teaching, learning, diversity, and equity. You can follow Flandro on Twitter @idahoedcarly and send her news tips at [email protected].

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