The School District calculated updated graduation rates in fall 2013 for District schools and former District schools now under outside management as Renaissance charters. Comparable 2013 graduation rates are not available for other charter schools.
There are different ways to calculate graduation rates, and results can vary widely, depending on the method used. These four-year cohort graduation rates provided by the School District track each school’s first-time 9th graders from fall 2009 (the cohort) through their high school years and measure what percentage earned their diploma by fall 2013.
Under this system, students count as graduates or dropouts at the schools where they enrolled for the first time as 9th graders, even if they transferred to another Philadelphia public school. Students who move out of the District (for example, to another city) are excluded from the rate calculations.
The School District’s system has been used in Philadelphia since 2006. By holding schools accountable for their 9th graders, using this method discourages a school from pushing challenging students to transfer out. But it does not measure how a school does with students who transfer in after the start of 9th grade.
Pennsylvania calculates the cohort graduation rate in a different way. Graduates are attributed to the school where they finished rather than the school where they started high school. A school gets credit for a student who transfers in and then graduates but is not measured on students who transfer out.
The School District is in the process of switching to a new methodology that aligns with the state’s graduation calculation. In the future, it will be attributing students to the last school enrolled. The District reports that it will be coupling this new graduation rate metric with a new retention rate metric, thereby neutralizing any incentive for schools to “push out” lower-performing students in order to inflate graduation rates.