This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
What does the District’s 64 percent on-time graduation rate look like, school by school?
It ranges widely, from a 99 percent graduation rate at Masterman to a half-dozen neighborhood high schools with graduation rates in the low 40s. Not surprisingly, special admission high schools with strict entrance requirements are clustered near the top, while neighborhood schools nearly all fall below the District’s average rate.
These four-year cohort graduation rates provided by the School District track each school’s first-time 9th graders from fall 2009 (known as the cohort) through their high school years and measure what percentage earned their diploma by fall 2013.
The School District calculated updated four-year graduation rates in fall 2013 for District schools and former District schools now under outside management as Renaissance charters. Comparable 2013 graduation rates are not available for other charter schools.
There are different ways to calculate graduation rates, and results can vary widely depending on the method used.
Under this system, students count as graduates or dropouts at the schools where they enrolled for the first time as 9th graders, even if they transferred to another public school here. Students who move out of the District (for example, to another city) are excluded from the rate calculations.
The School District’s system has been used in Philadelphia since 2006. By holding schools accountable for their 9th graders over the years, this method discourages a school from pushing challenging students to transfer out. But it does not measure how a school does with students who transfer in after the start of 9th grade.
Pennsylvania calculates the cohort graduation rate in a different way. Graduates are attributed to the school where they finished rather than the school where they started high school. A school gets credit for a student who transfers in and then graduates, but is not measured on students who transfer out.
The School District is in the process of switching to a new methodology that aligns with the state’s graduation calculation. In the future, it will be attributing students to the last school enrolled. The District reports that it will be coupling this new graduation rate metric with a new retention rate metric, thereby neutralizing any incentive for schools to "push out" lower-performing students in order to inflate graduation rates.
Source of data: School District of Philadelphia
A version of this chart and article will appear in the forthcoming print edition focusing on keeping students engaged, due out next week.