Lincoln Public School officials say the high school graduation rate at LPS showed steady increases for the class of 2013, providing a record high graduation rate for the school district while the dropout rate fell to the lowest in LPS history.
"Increasing the high school graduation rate is the most important instructional strategic goal for our school district – and that makes perfect sense," said LPS Superintendent Steve Joel. "As we continue raising our standard of excellence at LPS, increasing numbers of LPS students leave our high schools with a meaningful diploma that serves as the gateway to better employment and a successful college career."
Jane Stavem, associate superintendent for Instruction at LPS, agreed: "We want all of our kids to graduate and to choose their own future. I envision our school district like a huge fishing net…We are catching more students and preventing them from dropping out – by closing holes and making sure our nets are stronger."
She noted that one of her favorite moments recently "was when a preschool student at Belmont Elementary School could tell me what year she was graduating from high school...We celebrate knowing that the entire school district is working toward this goal."
LPS uses two sets of data for evaluating and assessing the high school graduation rate in the school district – using formulas that are slightly different.
For more than 20 years, LPS has followed the general rule of calculating graduation rates for students who start as ninth graders in the school district and graduate in four years on time. That means 87.1 percent of the students who started at LPS as ninth graders in 2008-09 – and did not move away – graduated on time in four years, compared to 84.6 percent the previous year. The dropout rate for 2013 was 6 percent, down from 8.3 percent the previous year.
Graduation numbers for school districts across the state were released Friday by the Nebraska State Department of Education – using a slightly different calculation formula. The state includes students who transfer into high school after ninth grade begins: a formula that gives LPS an 83.7 percent graduation rate, up from 83.3 percent the previous year. Stavem explained that the difference is easy to understand: Students who arrive and transfer into LPS later in their school experience – tend to have a greater number of life challenges and therefore graduate at a dramatically lower rate.
Jadi Miller, director of Curriculum at LPS, continued: "We are working hard to make sure our kids don't get lost in the system. We are more deliberate. We are closely monitoring each and every student – sewing up those holes in the net where kids might have disappeared in the past. We want every one of our students to feel a connection to high school."
Both Stavem and Miller pointed out significant increases in rates for the major ethnic minority groups. In the past three years the high school graduation rate for:
African American students: 67.8 to 81.3 percent.
Hispanic American students: 49.6 to 73.7 percent.
Native American students: 34.8 to 78.9 percent
Asian American students: 85.9 to 84.1 percent
White students: 83.7 to 89.5 percent
This kind of consistent increase in the LPS graduation rate took focus and intention throughout the school district – it must be a systemic plan that runs from elementary to middle to high school, Stavem stressed.
Specifically, high schools have implemented a broad range of initiatives focused on the graduation rate, including:
Lincoln Southwest High School: "Lincoln Southwest has worked hard to close the achievement gap in one of the most important areas, graduation rate. Since the class of 2010, LSW has seen 3 years of steady increase in the graduation rates of African American and Hispanic students. In 2010, 73.7 percent of African American students and 60 percent of Hispanic students graduated from LSW. These numbers rose to 77.3 percent and 78.6 percent, respectively for the class of 2011. The most recent data we have available is from the class of 2012, with a graduation rate of 85 percent for African American students and 88 percent for Hispanic students…We are also working to ensure our graduates are ready for college: Since 2005, LSW has seen nearly 90 percent of its college freshmen return for a second year of college."
Lincoln Southeast High School: "One of the school improvement goals for Lincoln Southeast for the 2013-14 school year was to improve the graduation rate to 90 percent by 2016. Three years ago the school graduation rate was 82 percent for the class of 2011, for the class of 2012 it increased to 87 percent, and then increased again to 90 percent for the class of 2013. LSE has worked to continue to establish a culture for high expectations and positive supports for students. Over the past few years Southeast has created many different interventions for struggling students in our effort to help them graduate on time. These interventions include an after school "Positive Youth Development" program called Knight House, mandatory academic support through Knightly Success, a math resource center and math interventionist. LSE has also partnered with the H.U.B. to help some of the students struggling the most – find resources outside of school. These new programs combined with our more traditional Learning Centers help to support students and allow them to graduate."
Lincoln North Star High School: "We have a variety of initiatives at North Star specifically focused on increasing the graduation rate. Administrators and counselors focus on juniors and seniors, and spend additional time meeting with them regularly to address graduation and what they need to do to finish on time. Graduation is mentioned whenever we have assemblies. All incoming ninth graders are provided with an end of their first-day rally focused on the year of their graduation. We have developed a "students on the bubble list" and ask teachers to "adopt" students to closely work with them to create a graduation plan. In addition, we have addressed the graduation gap for Hispanic/Latino students: We have created a Latino Empowerment Committee whose work includes regularly scheduled Latino parent meetings to address graduation, credit acquisition, etc. – and secure translators and special assistance for parent meetings."