Students at Washburn High School are now graduating at the same rate as their peers at Southwest, according to state Department of Education data published April 23.
Nearly 87% of the 359 Washburn students who began high school in fall 2014 graduated last spring, according to the Education Department. The rate was about 4.5 percentage points higher than it was in 2017 and marked a new peak in Washburn’s turnaround from 2012, when just 52.7% of seniors graduated on time.
At Southwest High School, 86.8% of the 417 seniors graduated on time in 2018.
Washburn’s graduation rate grew over 25 percentage points between 2012 and 2014. That’s in part because of a 2009 enrollment plan that altered the school’s demographics. In 2010, 53% of the school’s students lived in a set of 11 nearby South Minneapolis neighborhoods to the east of Lake Harriet. Today, 85% of the school’s students live in those neighborhoods.
Assistant principal Michelle Terpening, who has worked at the school in different roles since 2005, said the continued rise in Washburn’s graduation rate is also due to reduced staff turnover, a new principal and better credit-recovery options.
Less than 5% of Washburn teachers sought a position at a different Minneapolis school the last four years, Terpening said. She also said the school has seen reduced turnover among non-licensed staff.
Terpening said Washburn’s “school-within-a-school” credit-recovery model keeps getting better and that students within the program have earned three times more credits this year than last year. The school is also making sure supports are in place for seniors who aren’t on track to graduate, she said.
MPS interim academics chief, Eric Moore, said the combined Southwest-Washburn 2018 graduation rate was a testament to the strong staff and administrative teams at the two schools and the community’s rallying around students. He said a portion of Washburn’s 2018 improvement was due to a special-education program moving out of the building after the 2016-17 school year.
Moore pointed out that about 83% of Washburn’s black seniors graduated on time last year, the highest rate for that group since at least 2014. Overall, more than 80% of students of color at Southwest and Washburn graduated in 2018, according to the Education Department.
Moore said the staff at Washburn “do a really good job ensuring that all students are learning at a high level.”
At Southwest, the four-year graduation rate has remained above 85% for the past four years. Forty of the 417 students in the class of 2018 were planning to continue their high school education, while four students dropped out. At Washburn, 31 of last year’s 359 seniors remained in school after their expected graduation date and 13 dropped out.
Across MPS, 69.2% of seniors graduated on time last spring, according to the Education Department, which was the highest districtwide rate since at least 2009. The rate increased for every racial group.
In a press release, Superintendent Ed Graff said more work needs to be done and that the district must focus on each individual student.
“Graduation is a culmination of efforts by staff, students and families over a student’s entire educational career, not just in high school,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the percentage of Washburn students who lived in the nearby neighborhoods in 2010.