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Iowa high school graduation rate declines slightly

The graduation rate for Iowa’s class of 2011 declined less than 1 percent from the previous year, according to figures released by the Iowa Department of Education.

The state saw virtually no change in the annual dropout rate and an increase in the statewide graduation rate for students who took an extra year to finish high school.

Iowa’s four-year graduation rate decreased in all but two student subgroups – African American and Native American students – for the class of 2011.

The statewide rate is 88.3 percent, a decrease of 0.5 percent from the 88.8 percent graduation rate for the class of 2010. The 2011 rate remains ahead of the 2009 rate of 87.3 percent.

“Iowa has one of the best graduation rates in the nation,” Director Jason Glass said. “While this one-year decrease is not dramatic, we need to move the numbers back in the right direction. All students must be prepared to succeed in life. We will continue to monitor graduation rates and other data as part of our work to make Iowa’s schools among the best in the world.”

Four-Year Graduation Rate

The four-year graduation rate for the class of 2011 increased from the previous year in 136 school districts (41 percent) out of the 328 Iowa districts that have high schools. Fourteen districts (4 percent) saw no change in their graduation rates from the year before, while 178 districts (54 percent) saw a decrease.

This is the third year that Iowa graduation rates have been calculated with a new formula established by the U.S. Department of Education. Unique student identification numbers are assigned to ninth-grade students, allowing school districts to carefully account for all ninth graders as they move through high school. At the state level, the method helps determine when a student graduates, even if the student has moved to a different district in Iowa during high school.

Of Iowa’s 10 largest school districts, Sioux City, Waterloo, Iowa City, Council Bluffs and Cedar Rapids saw increases in their four-year graduation rates from the previous year.

Annual Dropout Rate

Iowa’s annual dropout rate remained virtually unchanged in the 2010-11 school year from the year before. The 2010-11 dropout rate was 3.38 percent, a decrease of .03 percent from the 2009-10 rate of 3.41 percent.

The rate reflects the percentage of students in grades 9-12 who drop out of school during a single year. The state’s 2010-11 dropout rate represents 4,991 students.

Five-Year Graduation Rate

The five-year graduation rate reflects students who were part of a graduating class but took an additional year to complete high school. They include students with disabilities and students in at-risk programs.

Iowa’s five-year graduation rate for students who were part of the class of 2010 was 91.8 percent, an increase of 1.3 percent from the 90.5 percent rate for the class of 2009. All student subgroups saw an increase in the five-year graduation rate, with significant increases among English-Language Learner and Hispanic students.

“Many school districts deserve credit for their targeted programs to help struggling students complete their high school education, even if it takes some students longer than others,” Glass said. “What matters is that our students finish high school prepared for the next stage in life.”


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