Grad rates drop under new formula
April 18, 2013
A new formula designed to more accurately calculate graduation rates continued to see drops in Douglas County and across Nevada, according to a Nevada Department of Education report.
But even though Douglas was down 2.36 percent from last year, the final graduation rate issued by the state for the 2012 school year was higher than anticipated.
Douglas County District Director of Assessments and Grants Brian Frazier said he was pleased that the state's final result of 80.41 percent was higher than the district's preliminary figure of 77 percent, which was released in December.
He said he's confident the adjusted cohort rate provides an accurate picture.
"While we are pleased with an 80 percent rate, we want to know why the other 20 percent did not graduate," he said. "We look at GEDs and adjusted diplomas, which are not included in the rate, and see how many students dropped out and why they dropped out."
Frazier said the goal of the Douglas County School District is to graduate 100 percent of students.
"If we really believe we can keep kids in school and engage them, then our goal should be 100 percent graduation," he said. "We're 80 percent there."
In the past, the graduation rate most often was determined by comparing the number of seniors in a graduating class to the number who actually received a diploma. Each state, and sometimes school districts within those states, used varying formulas to determine the graduation rates, making it impossible to make an accurate comparison.
Nevada's average graduation is well over 63.14 percent.
In an effort to standardize results, every state shifted to the cohort system, in which students are tracked from their freshman year through graduation.
Under earlier regulations, if a student left one high school, officials took that student's word that he or she would enroll in another school. Now, that student is considered a dropout until the former school receives the transfer record from the new school.
"This new system makes students and school districts more accountable," said Carson City School Superintendent Richard Stokes. "If we have a student who drops out, we have to ask ourselves why is he dropping out and what do we need to do to get him across the stage. It makes us do a better job of reaching out to every student. It's our job to help them to graduate."
Stokes said that with the new system there will be natural fluctuation between classes.
Throughout the state, seven school districts improved their graduation rates when calculating a four-year rate. When looking at the five-year rate, allowing an extra year to complete high school, eight districts improved.
"This fifth-year graduation data suggests that many of our Nevada students are continuing their education beyond the traditional four years to earn a regular diploma," according to a news release from the Nevada Department of Education.
While the system was designed to create a uniform method of reporting data, there remain some variables that skew results from state to state, according to the education department. In Nevada, students in are required to pass the High School Proficiency Exam to graduate. Not all states have similar requirements. In some states, special-education students who receive an adjusted diploma count as graduates. In Nevada, they do not.