Idaho’s graduation rate reaches a high-water mark

Idaho’s high school graduation rate made solid gains in 2018 — clearing the 80 percent mark.

The latest graduation rate comes in at 80.6 percent, up from 79.7 percent a year ago.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra hailed the news Thursday — and promised more improvements in the future.

“I am confident the pace will continue to pick up, thanks to hard work by our schools and districts and the intensive help my department now offers to lower-performing schools,” Ybarra said in a news release Thursday afternoon.

For the state, the new graduation numbers represent a high-water mark. In 2013-14, Idaho changed its accounting method — tracking students in a four-year “cohort” from ninth grade through 12th grade, an approach most states have used for years. The 80.6 percent rate is the highest number Idaho has posted using the cohort model.

The new numbers also represent a clearer success story for Ybarra. A year ago, during her re-election campaign, Ybarra came under fire for touting a minuscule improvement in graduation rates. From 2016 to 2017, the state’s graduation rate was virtually flat — with an improvement that amounted to only two students in a graduating class more than 20,000.

The State Department of Education also said it is taking an additional step to measure graduation rates. The department will track students who did not graduate within the four-year window, and see if they graduate in a fifth year.

“Some students take more than four years to complete high school, and some drop out but come back,” said Karlynn Laraway, the department’s director of assessment and accountability. “Schools are reaching out to their students who have stopped attending, discussing available options to earn their diploma, including alternative or online schools if a traditional high school campus isn’t a good fit for them.”

Factoring in that fifth year, the 2017 graduation rate improved from 79.7 percent to 82 percent.

Here are a few other key graduation numbers:

  • 18,429: The number of students who graduated on time in 2018.
  • 4,422: The number of students who did not graduate on time in 2018.
  • 82.3 percent: The graduation rate for white students.
  • 75.9 percent: The graduation rate for Hispanic students.
  • 60.7 percent: The graduation rate for American Indian or Alaskan native students.
  • 90: The number of high schools with graduation rate of 90 percent or more. Idaho has 210 high schools.
  • 18: The number of high schools with a 100 percent graduation rate.

It’s not immediately clear how Idaho’s new graduation rate will stack up nationally.

In 2016, the U.S. graduation rate was 84.1 percent. Idaho’s graduation rate ranked no. 40 nationally.

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