The Iowa Department of Education has released information showing more Iowa kids graduated high school in 2015 than in the previous, year. Jay Pennington in the department’s Bureau of Information and Analysis says it continues an upward trend.
“Ninety-point-eight percent of the class of 2015 graduated within four years of starting high school — which is up looking at a five-year trend from the class of 2011 — up about three percent,” Pennington says. Iowa led the nation in high school graduation rate in 2014, and it is likely the state stayed in that position, although all the state numbers are not in yet.
The department breaks the graduating students into seven subgroups. “For the most part we see consistent gains — both within year and across the five-year trend,” Pennington says. “Most notably, English Language learners had a slight decline, and the multiracial group had a slight decline. But across the board, we are seeing a nice trend of continued increases.”
Iowa became the first state in the nation to go above 90 percent with its graduation rate last year. Pennington says the move five years ago to start tracking students from the time they entered school as freshmen through graduation has been part of the reason for the graduation rate increase. “We’ve seen a concerted effort by school districts to take a look at students and how they’re progressing across their time in high school,” Pennington explains. “There are school district which are looking at their freshman class, tracking to make sure that students are getting enough credits to move up from freshman to sophomore etcetera. And also see what they can do to try to catch kids who are behind, up.”
Pennington says getting kids to graduate in four years is just one step in the overall effort to prepare them. “While schools and districts are focused on ensuring that as many kids as possible complete high school, we know that to be competitive in a global economy that this is only one step along the way. So, I really think the next set of efforts needs to focus on preparedness throughout high school,” according to Pennington.
He says they have to keep an eye on the ability of students to continue their education or start a career after high school. “What are the percent of kids who are enrolling in post-seconday opportunities. What kind of credentials can they receive What type of degrees really lead to a living wage?,” Pennington says. “I think we are doing a great job of getting kids across the line, but we also need to think about what’s it going to take to be competitive for our students in their future.”
The increase in the graduation rate was helped in part by a decrease of two-tenths of a percent in the annual dropout rate for the past school year. The report shows 3,637 students dropped out last year — or 2.5 percent.