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Graduation rate flat after years of increases

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

The School District’s graduation rate has hit a plateau after years of steady increases.

The four-year graduation rate for 9th graders who started in 2011 and graduated in 2015 is 65 percent – the same as for the previous two classes, those who started in 2009 and 2010, and slightly lower than the 2008 cohort. To get these numbers, individual students are tracked over time.

The six-year rate for the class that started in 2009 is 70 percent, meaning an additional 5 percent of students stayed for a fifth or even sixth year to get a diploma. Six-year rates for the 2010 and 2011 9th graders are not yet available.

Officials have no explanation for why there has been a leveling off after years of steady progress; a decade ago, less than half the students in District schools graduated on time.

Until this year, officials counted graduates based on the high school where they started 9th grade. This year, they began calculating the graduation rate based on the school a student last attended. So students who leave for charter schools, private schools, or other school districts no longer figure in the overall rates.

In the accompanying chart, the District retroactively applied the new methodology to all the classes going back to the 2006 first-time 9th graders.

There are still gaps in graduation rates based on race, ethnicity, and gender, some of them striking. Except for two groups, graduation rates have only slightly fluctuated. They seem to have declined significantly for Hispanic males and increased for White females. Officials had no explanations for these changes.

Attendance is a huge factor in graduation and the likelihood of entering and completing college. As in past years, the data show that half of high school students attend school less than 90 percent of the time, meaning that they miss nearly four weeks of school or more during the course of a year.

School-by-school results show wide fluctuations in graduation and college-going rates. As one might expect, the lowest rates are among neighborhood high schools, the highest among special admission and citywide admission schools. Those matriculation rates reflect the college-going rates of graduating students who enrolled in any post-secondary institution in the fall after graduation.

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