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On-time graduation rate has climbed 20 points in a decade

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

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The forthcoming print edition, where this article will appear, comes out next week.


The School District’s on-time graduation rate has continued its upward trend. For a second year in a row, it climbed three percentage points last year – to 64 percent. That figure represents the percentage of students entering 9th grade in fall 2008 who finished high school by 2012.

From a dismal 44 percent on-time graduation rate in 2002, the percentage of District students graduating in four years has now grown by 20 percentage points in a decade.

District Assistant Superintendent Donna Runner attributed the gains to improved, standards-based instruction and better use of student data. Improvement has come “as teachers got better at utilizing instructional strategies to achieve the standards,” she said. And student-level data helped schools and teachers understand better “what barriers do individual students have to learning.”

The District monitors both four-year and six-year graduation rates. Many students do not complete high school on time but persist and graduate within a year or two of their peers. Gains in six-year graduation rates have been less dramatic. The most current available six-year rate – for first-time high school freshman from 2006 – is 64 percent.

Mayor Michael Nutter has prioritized the dropout issue since taking office; he set a target for a six-year graduation rate of 80 percent by 2014.

All these rates are called cohort graduation rates. Based on tracking individual students over time, they show the percentage of students who started 9th grade together and graduated four and six years later. The rates are adjusted for students who transferred out of the District.

Graphic by Joseph Kemp

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