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Iowa's HS Graduation Rate Increases

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The Iowa Department of Education this week released the latest graduation rates, and the numbers continue to show statewide improvement. The department said 90.8% of the students in the Class of 2015 received their diplomas last spring, a slight increase from the previous year.

Director Ryan Wise said the goal remains a 100% graduation rate. He told Tri States Public Radio the key to achieving that is to emphasize hands-on, personal connections between students and teachers.

“Between what is happening in their classrooms, academically, and the world outside of school so we are preparing kids for the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful beyond school,” said Wise.

“That can happen by making connections with community colleges, universities, and local businesses. Bringing these folks into the school or sending kids out as well or just doing really engaging, hands-on activities in classrooms as well.”

Wise said the department is pleased with the 90.8% graduation rate statewide. The rate has increased each of the last five years from a rate of 88.3% for the class of 2011.

Wise said the goal is continual improvement with an eye on 100% statewide.

“Where I see really strong performers are those that do take that 100% goal approach,” said Wise. “Where they know every student by name and there is a school-based team that is thinking of each individual kid and what are the specific things that will motivate that student to come to school every day and doo well.”

Wise said he has visited 50 school districts since taking the job July 1 and a key factor in success is the personalized approach to education, be it a small, rural district or a large school in the middle of a city.

Wise said while the statewide graduation rate was a positive for students, families, and schools, the report also showed some areas of concern, specifically how certain subgroups fared. The different subgroups include English as a second language, race, low-income, or special needs.

“We still continue to see gaps in graduation rates and in achievement rates, frankly, among those different subgroups of students,” said Wise. “So while we certainly need to celebrate our overall high graduation rate and our improving graduation rate across most categories of students, we also need to ensure that all students are graduating and all students have a successful school experience.”

Graduation figures (links to Iowa Department of Education website)

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.