MPS graduation rate up for fifth straight year

Minneapolis Public Schools saw its graduation rate increase for the fifth straight year in 2016, the district reported Thursday.

More than 67 percent of Minneapolis students graduated within four years, the district said, which marked nearly a 3-percentage-point increase from 2015 and a nearly 8 1/2-percentage-point increase from 2014. The district’s graduation rate has increased every year since 2011, when it was 46.9 percent.

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Source: Minneapolis Public Schools

The four-year graduation rate for black students in 2016 was 59.4 percent, compared to 52.3 percent in 2015. The rate was 36.7 percent in 2012, according to the district.

All racial and demographic groups have seen an improved graduation rate since 2012, according to the district. Twenty-five percent of American-Indian students graduated within four years in 2012; 37.4 percent did in 2016. Among Asian students, the four-year graduation rate was 67.2 percent in 2012, compared to 85.6 percent in 2016.

Hispanic students had a 50.1 percent four-year graduation rate in 2016, compared to 36.8 percent in 2012. White students had a 84.7 percent rate in 2016, compared to 69.8 percent in 2012.

Among English-learner students, the four-year graduation rate was 54.4 percent in 2016, compared to 35.6  percent in 2012. It was 34.1 percent in 2016 among special-education students, compared to 19.1 percent in 2012.

The increase over the past four years has been most pronounced at North and Washburn high schools. North had a 44.1 percent graduation rate in 2012 and a 42.1 percent graduation rate in 2014 but posted a 81.5 percent rate in 2016. Washburn had a 52.7 percent graduation rate in 2012 and an 82.4 percent rate in 2016.

Southwest had an 89.4 percent graduation rate in 2016, up 3 1/2 percentage points from 2015 and nearly 10 from 2012.

Southwest High School Principal Bill Smith said he’s excited that the work the school puts into its kids is showing, noting that students of all backgrounds have seen improvement.

More than 80 percent of black Southwest students graduated within four years in 2016, compared to 52.2 percent in 2012. English-learner students posted a graduation-rate jump from 46.4 percent to 83.8 percent in that timeframe, and the graduation rate for special education students jumped from 28.9 percent to 51.1 percent.

Smith said that the district and state have gotten better at tracking students who leave for other states, adding that some of those students in the past would be counted as dropouts. He also said the school district has changed its emphasis on both keeping kids and brining those students back after they group out.

At Southwest, Smith said the academic ninth-grade teams have made a big difference, as well as an effort to get kids to enroll in harder classes. Students also have an expectation that they will be going to college, he said, and understand what they have to do to get there.

In addition, Smith said kids are paying attention to reports that Minnesota doesn’t have enough skilled workers and that are opportunities for those students who graduate.

“If you want a job and are interested in making a difference, you need to stay with this,” Smith said of high school. “I think kids are buying it.”

Superintendent Ed Graff, who started with the district in July, said in a statement that he’s encouraged by some of the “innovative approaches” the district is taking to improve graduation outcomes for students, including its new On-Track initiative.

The district’s On-Track system helps identify supports and interventions to ensure ninth-graders finish the year on track to graduate. Research shows that ninth-grade outcomes are the biggest predictor to on-time graduation, the district said in the statement.

The district cited Edison High School, which saw a 25-percentage-point decrease in the number of ninth-graders who failed a class in the first quarter of this school year compared to the first quarter last school year. The release said the district expects to see the impact of this work in the 2018-19 graduation rates.

Statewide, graduation rates have increased among all students over the past 10 years, going from 75.2 percent in 2006 to 82.2 percent in 2016. Black students have made the most significant gain. Black students had a 41.1 percent graduation rate in 2006 and a 65.1 percent graduation rate in 2016.

A Minnesota Department of Education press release said Minnesota has placed an increased focus on raising graduation rates for all kids over the past six years. The department cited efforts such as the Minnesota Early Indicator and Response System, a tool that is used to provide a snapshot of students in sixth through ninth grade who are at increased risk of not completing high school in four years. These students are then targeted for intervention.

It also cited the launch of a statewide campaign that set a goal of 90-percent graduation rates for all students; setting new accountability expectations for district rates by including them in the state’s Multiple Measurement Ratings system; identifying Title I high schools with the lowest graduation rates, and offering strategic support; offering intervention to students with behavioral problems through programs like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports; and providing support to struggling schools through Minnesota’s Regional Centers of Excellence.

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