Michigan High School Graduation Rates Rise Again


In Michigan, graduation rates have risen for the third straight year as dropout rates are lowering, as shown by state data released last week.

For the 2013-2014 school year, 78.58% of students over four years had graduated on time, as compared to 76.96% in 2012-2013, 76.24% in 2011-2012. and 74.33% in 2010-2011. Of the 124,279 high school seniors in Michigan, 97,664 graduated in four years, while 11,943 dropped out. The improvement is, according to Shawn D. Lewis of The Detroit News, because of a new curriculum.

“We have seen a steady and impressive increase in graduation rates since 2011, when the more rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum requirements took full effect,” Thomas Howell, director of the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information (MCEPI), said in a statement.

MCEPI stated that from 2012-13 to 2012-14 graduation rates rose in all 10 districts with the largest graduating classes, and that includes Detroit Public Schools with a rate of 64.55% to 71.05%.

“This 6.5 percentage point gain in our graduation rate — and our 11 percentage point gain since 2010-11 — shows that our academic plan is working, particularly at the high school level,” said Karen Ridgeway, DPS superintendent of academics.

Wendy Zdeb-Roper, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, says the efforts put forth by the state’s high schools has paid off even though Michigan has the toughest graduation requirements in the country, especially where math and science are concerned, writes Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press. However, Michigan is still below the national average of 81%  for the 2012-2013 school year, and overall, Michigan is behind the academic achievement gains of other states.

In 2012, the state moved six of its lowest performing high schools to the Education Achievement Authority, a system of reform for schools which are performing in last place in the state and, as a result, the graduation rates for these schools rose. Michigan Superintendent Mike Flanagan adds that the focus on early childhood education and more resources for at-risk students in both rural and urban districts will also improve the general success of the state’s students.

“You’re looking at your data weekly. You’re looking at kids and seeing who has discipline issues, who has attendance issues, who has missing assignments,” Zdeb-Roper said. “Schools are looking at this and sitting down with them much earlier and saying, ‘What’s going on, how can we help.’ 

The rate of graduation in four years is measured by following each student from enrollment in ninth grade, explains MCEPI. Kyle Feldscher, reporting for MLive Media Group, writes that the center also measures five-year and six-year graduation rates. The five-year rate rose .6% to 80.41% and six-year rates improved by 1.17% to 80.68%.

Khalil Alhajal of the MLive Media Group also reports that the close monitoring of student credits during high school by counselors, along with school counselors’ ongoing collaboration with classroom teachers, have contributed to graduation rate improvements.

“We have put in place a rigorous, data-driven program, in coordination with teachers, principals and counselors, to constantly monitor students’ on-time graduation progression,” said Ridgeway about Detroit’s gains.

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