GRADUATION RATE DATA
According to new, preliminary data available here, many states improved their four-year high school graduation rates in the 2011-12 school year. The data shows that 16 states reported graduation rates at or above 85%, versus just nine states who reported the same graduation rates in 2010-11. This is the second year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure to indicate how many students received diplomas. Building off this new data, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will release a report in early 2014 regarding on-time graduation rates for school years 2010-11 and 2011-12. On-time graduation rate indicators provide a measure of the percentage of students that complete high school in four years with a regular high school diploma.
The interactive map of the US allows a quick look at how Oregon compares to other states, as well as, providing links to additional data sets. Oregon’s graduation rate of 68% places it in the bottom quintile of states in the US. A critical initial factor impacting whether the state’s goal of reaching 40% of graduates with a bachelor’s degree, 40% of graduates with an associate’s degree or certificate, and 20% graduating with a rigorous high school diploma (40-40-20 goal) is to significantly improve the on-time high school graduation rate. Doing so will require significant investment that begins to restore both the breadth of curriculum offerings that engage a broader range of student interests, as well as, creating conditions within high schools that directly contribute to student engagement and success. This would include restoring investment in student advising and counseling, academic support and intervention programs; reduction in the very large class sizes currently seen in Oregon high schools; restoration of Career and Technical Education programs including expanded partnerships with Community Colleges; and an intense focus at the individual student level on successful transition from the 8th grade into high school.
There are clear measures in place already in these areas and the Oregon Education Investment Board has, appropriately, called for better alignment across institutions and more careful monitoring of student success using longitudinal data. This problem cannot be fixed by focus on a single grade level. In other words, high school graduation rates are not solely the responsibility of high schools. Thinking of these data as "system indicators" and not just "school indicators" opens the conversation to how each element of the PK-20 system is connected to the next element. Each element is connected to what came before and influences the success of what happens at the next level. Having good metrics in place is only a prerequisite step to the more important work of establishing system alignment across all grades, restoration of support and intervention services, and creating conditions for success at the school and classroom level. There is a danger in spending too much time weighing the baby and not enough time feeding the baby.