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Two-thirds of District students now graduate within 6 years

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

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A decade ago, it wasn’t far off to say that in the School District of Philadelphia, only half the students graduate.

At least now you can say two-thirds.

The District’s six-year graduation rate – the percentage of students who started high school in Philadelphia District schools in 2007 and earned their diplomas by 2013 – has climbed to 67 percent. That figure includes hundreds of students who don’t graduate on time, but persist through a fifth or a sixth year of high school to earn their diplomas.

The four-year graduation rate, which had risen 20 points between 2002 and 2012, remains at 64 percent for the class of 2013. That is unchanged from a year ago.

The six-year rate is still far shy of the 80 percent target set by Mayor Nutter shortly after taking office. The mayor’s stated goal was to cut the dropout rate in half by 2014. Since 2009, the six- and four-year graduation rates have climbed 7 and 8 percentage points, respectively.

Nutter found encouragement in the numbers.

“I am pleased to see that, despite the very challenging economic circumstances, we continue to make progress toward our education goals,” he said.

These rates are called cohort graduation rates. They are 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. Students who transferred to other school districts are removed from the calculation.

Comparable rates for Philadelphia charter schools for these cohorts were not available. In prior years, reported charter graduation rates had exceeded District rates by 12 points or more. But in those years, Philadelphia’s charter high schools overall educated smaller percentages of special education students and significantly smaller percentages of low-income students than District schools.

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