The School District's on-time graduation rate climbed 3 percentage points last year to 61 percent, the first time in memory that more than six of ten Philadelphia students have graduated on time. That figure is the percentage of students who entered 9th grade in fall 2007 and finished high school by 2011.
Mayor Michael Nutter has called for a six-year graduation rate of 80 percent by 2014.
"It is exciting to see that we are graduating our students in four years at a higher rate," said Lori Shorr, the mayor's chief education officer. "And we need to remember the gains we have made over time: The four-year on-time cohort graduation rate had increased 12 percentage points in the last seven years. However, we still have a lot to do to get the overall high school graduation rate to 80 percent."
While the on-time graduation rate has indeed increased significantly over the past decade, the trends in six-year graduation rates are not as positive.
The District monitors both on-time and six-year graduation rates. Many students do not complete high school in four years but persist and graduate within a year or two of their peers.
For the class of students that started 9th grade in 2005 and was slated to graduate in 2009, the graduation rate of 56 percent after four years grew to 61 percent by 2011. That six-year rate was two points lower than the previous high for the District.
The number of students who take five or six years to graduate appears to have diminished as the number of on-time graduates increases.
All these rates are called cohort graduation rates. They are based on tracking individual students over time. They show the percentage of students who started 9th grade together and graduated four and six years later. The rates are adjusted for students who transferred out of the District.
While the state uses a different system, this method for tracking graduation rates has been endorsed by the city, the District, and the community partners that make up the Project U-Turn campaign.