Report: RI One of Ten States With Declining Graduation Rate
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Rhode Island was one of only ten states to see a decline in graduation rates between 2002 and 2009 while the national graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points during the same time span, according to a report released Monday by the America’s Promise Alliance.
The state’s overall graduation rate dipped from 75.7 percent to 75.3 percent, which earned the state a label of “lagging” in the report, titled “Building a Grad Nation.”
The national graduation rate is 75.5 percent.
Nevada, Connecticut, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, Nebraska, Arkansas and New Jersey were the other states to see decreases during the time span.
"It's extremely disappointing that Rhode Island saw a decline in graduation rates from 2002 to 2009,” said Maryellen Butke, executive director of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now. “it demonstrates the urgent need for change in our schools. Though our graduation rates have seen some improvements since 2009, we must relentlessly focus on necessary reforms like ensuring that schools have the most effective teacher in every classroom and schools have the flexibility and autonomy they need to best serve kids."
Must Accelerate Rate of Progress
The report found that 24 states increased their high school graduation rates by modest to large gains, while the number of high schools graduating 60 percent or fewer students on time—often referred to as “dropout factories”— decreased by 457 between 2002 and 2010, with the rate of decline accelerating since 2008.
The number of “dropout factories” totaled 1,550 in 2010, down from 1,634 in 2009 and a high of 2,007 in 2002. The number declined by 84 between 2009 and 2010. As a result, 790,000 fewer students attended dropout factories in 2010 than 2002.
According to the report, Rhode Island has five “dropout factories.”
“The good news is that some states have made improvements in their graduation rates, showing it can be done. But the data also indicate that if we are to meet our national goals by 2020, we will have to accelerate our rate of progress, particularly in the states that have shown little progress,” said Robert Balfanz, a co-author of the report.
Commissioner Gist: We’re Improving
But while the findings are troubling, Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said the state has been steadily improving since 2009 and the graduation rate is actually up to 77 percent.
“Despite the findings of the report ‘Building a Grad Nation 2012,’ the graduation rate in Rhode Island has steadily improved since at least 2007, when Rhode Island adopted the cohort formula for accurately determining graduation rates,” Gist said. “’Building a Grad Nation’ reports on graduation data from 2002 through 2009. Since 2009, our four-year graduation rate has improved slightly, to 77 percent, and our five-year graduation has improved by 3 percentage points, to 80 percent. Most important, our Diploma System, which focuses on proficiency-based graduation requirements and maintaining high expectations for all students, will ensure that our graduates will truly be ready for the challenges they will face in postsecondary education and careers.”
Gist said the report included good suggestions for improving graduation rates and said educators in the state are now working to identify students at risk of failure as early as the sixth grade. She said the goal is to provide students with individual learning plans and personal literacy plans, as well as programs for afterschool instruction, virtual learning, and credit recovery to keep potential dropouts on course toward graduation.
“When implemented well, these programs can have dramatic effects on the lives of our students, as we have seen at Central Falls High School, where in 2011 the four-year graduation rate improved from 54 percent to 71 percent,” Gist said. “As we continue our work toward transforming education, we expect to see similar dramatic improvements in other communities across our state.”
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