by Maureen Hayden
CNHI Statehouse Bureau
Indiana’s reported high school graduation rate continues to improve, moving from 77 percent to more than 88 percent in less than a decade, but there are still significant achievement gaps marked by race and income.
On Monday, the Indiana Department of Education released the graduation rates for all Indiana public and charter high schools for the 2011-12 school year. Statewide, the graduation rate is slightly over 88 percent, up from just less than 87 percent for the 2010-11 school year. Five years ago, the high graduation rate was just less than 78 percent.
Local schools’ graduation rates remained unchanged from preliminary numbers made public in March. The single exception, Eastern Pulaski Community Schools in Winamac, saw its graduation rate climb one percentage point to 91.9 percent.
The numbers show that students who are black, Hispanic or low-income still have lower graduation rates than students who are white and more affluent. Just more than 90 percent of white students graduated on-time from Indiana high schools last year, while 77 percent of black students and 84 percent of Hispanic students did.
The graduation rates were released without any statement from Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat who took over as the state’s top schools chief in January, after defeating Republican incumbent Tony Bennett. Bennett had made improving Indiana’s graduation rate one of the top goals of his administration.
David Galvin, the communications manager for the Indiana Department of Education, said Ritz was still reviewing the numbers.
High school graduation rates play a critical role in how schools and school districts are evaluated by the state under its A-to-F grading system put into place in 2011.
The state gives every school and every school district a letter grade based on several metrics, including test scores and graduation rates. Public schools with low grades run the risk of being taken over by the state, while public schools with high grades are positioned to get more state funding.
Missing from the data released Monday was the “non-waiver graduation rate,” which culls out the number of waivers that high schools grant to graduating students who fail to pass the state’s required end-of-course assessment tests in math and English. Statewide, about 8 percent of students in 2011 received diplomas through the waiver process, but in some schools the percentage was much higher.
“Without that waiver information, it throws into question the entire graduation rate information,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, a Noblesville Republican who also sits on Senate Education Committee.
House Education Chairman Bob Behning, a Republican from Noblesville, said the waiver information is critical to assessing the graduation rate, especially for individual schools.
“As a state, we’ve definitely been pushing to get our graduation rates up,” said Behning. “But know there are individual schools that are granting too many waivers,” Behning said.
The data released Monday shows the overall graduation rate for the state’s public high schools has continued to increase since the 2006-07 school year, with many schools in affluent districts showing graduation rates above the 90 percent mark.
The report confirms preliminary data that stated Logansport High School’s graduation rate continues to be on the rise, with 267 out of 293 students graduating in 2012, a rate of 91.1 percent. The rate in 2011 was 83.8 percent graduation rate, following 2010’s 79.7 percent and 2009’s 79.5 percent.
The recently released data reflects Carroll Consolidated School Corporation’s graduation rate estimates as well, with 70 out of 73 students graduating, resulting in a 95.9 percent graduation rate. That’s up from 2011 and 2010’s graduation rate of 92.9 percent, which dropped slightly in comparison to a graduation rate of 94 percent in 2009.
In addition, preliminary data regarding Southeastern School Corporation matches that of the official statistics released Monday. Of the corporation’s 132 high school seniors, 93 graduated, resulting in a 70.5 percent graduation rate. This figure adds to a continuing trend of decreasing graduation rates for the area, as the rate in 2011 fell to 85.8 percent from 2010’s 88.4 percent.
Meanwhile, the overall graduation rates for non-public schools has dipped slightly: from just under 93 percent in 2006-07 to just less than 92 percent in 2011-12. (The DOE did not have the individual graduation rates for the non-public schools posted Monday.)
Some schools saw significant decreases in their graduation from last year: only 59 percent of high school students in the Gary Community Schools graduated on time in 2012, down from 67 percent the year before. Indianapolis Public Schools saw a drop from 69 percent in 2011 to 65 percent in 2012.
In releasing the state graduation rate of 88 percent on Monday, the DOE also released a second graduation rate, as calculated using a formula devised by the federal Department of Education. Under the federal DOE formula, Indiana’s graduation rate is 87 percent for the 2011-12 school year.
The state DOE and federal DOE use slightly different reporting requirements in how they track the number of students who enroll in a high school as freshmen and remain there until they graduate.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff reporter Mitchell Kirk contributed to this report.