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State Grad Rate At 75%

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MIRS, August 25, 2008

More than four out of 10 students didn't graduate from Detroit Public Schools (DPS) in 2007, according to data released today by the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI).

Overall, Michigan's high school graduation rate for 2007 is 75.45 percent. That's a 10 percent drop from 2006, but state officials say that the new formula used this year makes it impossible to compare data to the previous year.

The average dropout rate for Michigan's 565 districts was 15.09 percent.

"Our estimate going in was that rates would decline statewide by about 10 to 15 percent and that was pretty accurate," CEPI Spokeswoman Leslee FRITZ.

All eyes today were on Detroit, which national studies have long since fingered for having one of the country's lowest graduation rates -- perhaps as low as 33 percent. The district also has grappled with a $400 million budget shortfall and recently submitted a deficit reduction plan to state Superintendent Mike FLANAGAN.

DPS' 58.42 percent graduation rate and 29.9 percent dropout rate were not the worst numbers by far. Flint Public Schools had a 54.62 percent graduation rate, although its dropout rate -- 26.73 percent -- was better than DPS.

"They, as a school district, and we, as a state, will have to address these issues," Fritz said.

Fritz said that the new methodology used by the state presents a more accurate picture for DPS than national studies, since CEPI can better track students going in and out of the district (See "Grad Rates Likely To Drop With New Formula," 8/22/08). She said DPS has been challenged by a declining student population, which is expected to dip below 100,000 for the first time this fall.

There was some good news. Eleven schools in Michigan boasted a perfect 100 percent graduation rate.

CEPI also breaks down data by subgroups. There is a gender gap. For the class of 2007, 80.07 percent of females and 71.06 percent of males graduated with a regular diploma in four years or less. Economically disadvantaged students also fared worse, Fritz said.

"To be competitive, Michigan needs the best educated workforce in the nation, and the fact that one in every four high school students is failing to graduate on time is totally unacceptable," said Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM. "That is why we have fought for programs like early college and small high schools that will help students, specifically minority and economically disadvantaged students where the problem is most severe."

The 2007 four-year cohort graduation rate complies with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and the National Governors Association Graduation Counts Compact signed by the nation's 50 governors in 2005. The graduation rate counts only those students who earn a regular diploma in four years or less as on-time graduates.

In previous years, Michigan's graduation rate was calculated using a one-year estimated rate. Under the previous methodology, a rate was derived by determining a one-year retention rate (dividing one year's fall enrollment by the previous year's fall enrollment) for a building or district. Four one-year rates were multiplied together to determine an estimated graduation rate.

"Earning a high school diploma is more critical than ever for students to ensure success in postsecondary education and the workplace," said CEPI Director Margaret Merlyn ROPP. "Using the four-year cohort method to determine graduation and dropout rates means we can help every student succeed by providing education leaders and policymakers with a more accurate picture of what's happening in Michigan high schools."

The Michigan Education Association (MEA) praised the new methodology for providing more accurate numbers. The union also highlighted the series of hearings across the state on the dropout problem it has sponsored with other groups this year.

"These numbers are an important tool to help us fight the dropout crisis, but they are only one tool," said MEA President Iris SALTERS. "We have to continue broad community conversations about this problem to better identify what works - and what doesn't - in making sure students get a quality high school education. And then we must work together in our communities to make it happen."

Four hearings remain. Findings will be delivered to Granholm and the Legislature at the Oct. 20 Dropout Prevention Leadership Summit in Lansing.


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