New England’s High School Graduation Rates on the Rise
The Latest Report from New England’s Common Data Project Shows Regional Gains in Student Attainment
PORTLAND, ME – New England’s four-year high school graduation rate increased by nearly eight percentage points from 2009 to 2015, according to an annual report from the New England Secondary School Consortium’s Common Data Project, which was publicly released today. This increase in graduation rates represents several thousand additional high school students earning diplomas in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont than would have graduated if rates remained the same as in the project’s baseline year of 2010. During the same six-year period, all five Consortium states enacted or strengthened education policies that support proficiency-based, student-centered teaching and learning practices. This is the Consortium’s fourth annual public report on Common Data Project findings.
“The New England Secondary School Consortium is the best example of regional collaboration for educational improvement. It’s the only regional example of high schools, universities, and policy makers working in concert to improve achievement levels—and it’s working. This report shows that high school graduation rates have improved from 80 percent to almost 88 percent,” says Tom Vander Ark, Chief Executive Officer of Getting Smart.
Despite significant progress, the report shows that gaps remain between the educational achievement of economically disadvantaged students (i.e., students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch) and other students. The graduation rates of economically disadvantaged students, which make up 40 percent of public high school students in the five Consortium states, fell slightly from last year. And although regional dropout rates are on the decline, economically disadvantaged students continue to drop out of school at significantly higher rates than their peers.
For the first time this year, the report included a six-year graduation rate: across the five Consortium states, 88.7 percent of high school students graduated within six years, which suggests that providing extra time for students to master knowledge and skills—a hallmark of many proficiency-based education systems—can improve graduation rates for all students, especially those who are economically disadvantaged.
“We are proud of the progress we have made in Rhode Island toward improving our graduation rates,” says Ken Wagner, Rhode Island’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “This report shows that we are on track toward attaining a graduation rate of 90 percent within four years. While we recognize that we have a lot of work to do to close achievement gaps, we are pleased to see relatively strong graduation rates for English learners. Data reports such as this one help us identify weaknesses and build upon areas of strength.”
Since 2009, the state education agencies from the five Consortium states have been collecting, calculating, and reporting not only public high school graduation and dropout rates, but also postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion rates. Each participating state education agency uses a common set of rules and procedures developed by a regional team of data specialists from each of the five state agencies.
“On the national level, we have realized the importance of states using comparable data and providing transparency in achievement. Data comparability allows us to understand how well our public schools are serving all students from state to state,” says Susan Patrick, Co-founder of CompetencyWorks. “The New England Secondary School Consortium’s Common Data Project is part of a larger call to action to move away from a fixed, one-size-fits-all system toward one that truly supports every learner in building mastery and empowers educators to personalize instruction. As this report suggests, through its impressive collection of comparable data, competency-based learning holds promise to boost learning outcomes.”
The report, as well as the guidelines developed and followed by the participating states, are publicly available on the New England Secondary School Consortium website: newenglandssc.org/resources/common-data-project
“This fourth report shows that we are on our way to meeting the Consortium’s goal of a 90 percent graduation rate in the five Consortium states,” says David Ruff, Executive Director of the Great Schools Partnership. “The six-year graduation rate, which has reached 90 percent in two of the Consortium states, is particularly promising. It is encouraging to see that even as the New England states work to increase academic expectations and ensure that students meet high standards, our youth are more than capable of rising to the challenge.”
The New England Secondary School Consortium is a regional partnership working to advance forward-thinking innovations in secondary education that will empower the next generation of citizens, workers, and leaders. The Consortium is funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and coordinated by the Great Schools Partnership.
Blythe Armitage, Public Engagement Associate
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