The New Jersey Department of Education’s figures show that the statewide high school graduation rate increased again this year, up 1% from 86.5% in 2012. Some 95,091 high school students graduated in June, and 4,452 who started four years earlier dropped out, according to data from the Department Of Education.
The state’s officials said that another 5,681 students who began ninth grade in 2009 are still continuing their studies. The 1% increase represents continued growth since new, federally mandated rules for calculating the rate were imposed in 2011, writes Peggy McGlone of The Star-Ledger.
“We believe the increase is significant,” chief policy and external affairs officer Justin Barra said. “It is an actual increase that reflects the hard work of our districts.”
According to officials, the data is more accurate because of the federal government’s new rules, which require schools to track students over four years of high school and to verify students who leave the district or the state. Previously, schools divided the number of graduates by the number of students enrolled at the start of 12th grade.
The state’s data show that 27 schools graduated 100% of their students. The rates in several large urban districts, including Jersey City and Trenton, remained level at about 67% and 48%, respectively, while Newark’s district-wide rate dropped 1%, to 67.7%.
There were marked improvements in some Newark schools, including Central High School, which grew from 76.7% 80.1%, and West Side, which saw its rate improve from 60.6% to 65.5%. In Paterson, the four-year graduation rate for all district high schools was 72.1%, a jump of 5.7% from 2012’s 66.4%.
Superintendent Donnie Evans said the gains started in 2009, and mark a rise from 45% to 72.1% if calculated with the new formula. “We are extremely pleased,” Evans said. “We’ve been working very, very hard districtwide.”
According to Evans, Paterson’s improvement is the result of several major changes, including a restructuring of the high schools to replace 2,220-student institutions with smaller communities of learning focused on an academic or vocational theme. The district’s eighth-grade students are able to choose the high school they want to attend and undergo a transcript review.
“We sit down with 99% of the students and families to determine whether they are on track and if not what they can do to get on track,” Evans said.
Barra noted that the statewide data show real differences among student sub-groups. For example, 77.1% of economically disadvantaged students graduated in four years, compared to 91.8% of non-economically disadvantaged students. Students with limited English proficiency had the lowest rate, 70.5%, which dropped from 73.1% in 2012.
In addition, about 76.4% of African-American students, 78.6% of Hispanic students and 95.9% of Asian students graduated in four years, compared to 93.1% of white students. There was growth in each of those categories.