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District on-time graduation rate surpasses 60 percent

By by Paul Socolar on Feb 3, 2012 11:31 AM

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.

Comments (19)

Submitted by Alex (not verified) on February 22, 2012 3:57 pm

Do you know how those numbers are calculated? My guess is neither Lori, nor Michael Nutter, know how they are calculated. Yet, they're happy to talk about the results as if they are real. Those numbers are subject to a number of potential manipulations. If you want to see what a mess those calculations have been, check out the recorded webinar that was held by PDE with DRC recently. If they wanted to, they could have played with the excel files to make it 80%, but then they wouldn't have any goal left to shoot for.

Submitted by thomas freeman (not verified) on May 14, 2013 2:16 pm
it's a piece of cake to calculate graduation rates . get the number of students enrolled in 12th grade and the number of students from that class who graduate. ex. (absurd of course) 1000 students in 12 grade Sept. 2012 600 graduate June 2013 that MEANS A GRADUATION RATE OF 60%.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 2, 2012 3:25 pm

What is the reading level of these graduating seniors. In the past the norm for a student graduating from a Philadelphia high school was 4th grade. Is this still the case?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 20, 2012 2:00 pm

Where in the world are you getting that number from? That is a totally preposterous statement. That was never the case in the District or any other district in America.

Back when we had real reading programs in our schools and used credible diagnostic instruments to measure reading level, we had accurate and credible data to answer those questions. I once ran a reading program at University City High School which had a 90% poverty rate.

Students in our reading program averaged well above a fourth grade level and they all scored in the bottom quartile of standardized test scores. That means 75% of Philadelphia's students read at a higher level than the students who entered our reading program. In our program we had learning disabled students, ESOL students, academically disadvantaged students and students who suffered from dyslexia (which is between 3% and 10% of our population).

The truth though is that the State nor the District uses a valid diagnostic instrument to measure reading level of our students. (Please do not say the PSSA's do that because they do not measure reading level -- they place students in 4 arbitrarily designated groupings.)

Submitted by Mark J. (not verified) on March 23, 2012 3:45 pm

If they're coming from a charter, they're ready for Harvard. If not, 3rd. grade. What a bunch of crap charters are !!

Submitted by thomas freeman (not verified) on May 14, 2013 2:08 pm
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on March 20, 2012 1:01 pm

The mantra is "college and career" ready but the SDP doesn't include basic conduct for the work place. For too many students, the reality of work place conduct doesn't hit until they lose a job. If the graduation rate is up, why is unemployment so high? Yes, there are lack of entry level jobs but there are also a large group of graduates who will not fit into a 8 hour work day where steady work, being prompt, following directions, etc. are basic requirements. Schools aren't preparing students for the reality of career or college.

Submitted by Anonymous on March 20, 2012 2:58 pm

This is a joke. Let's chase the goal of 80% while we ruin our schools from within by pushing kids along regardless of grades, effort, discipline, or even just plain attendance. Let's reward the schools that turn a blind eye and close the schools who are not doing a good job of cooking the books.

Being promoted to the next grade should be a yearly goal that students work to achieve and this achievement should be celebrated. We need to stop chasing "sexy" statistics and confront problems head on with tough love. This all goes back to the whole mentality of NCLB that has turned the focus away from real education and towards chasing whatever incentives no matter what the costs. Until we get real with the problems we face in philly we will have no improvement, just smoke and mirrors.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 20, 2012 3:43 pm

I certainly hope you are correct. My numbers come from School DIstrict of Philadelphia personnel including reading specialists employed by the District and central office staff.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on March 20, 2012 5:43 pm

What is the assessment instrument, when and how is it administered and where is the data? I left the district as an administrator in 2009 and there was no such valid assessment of students' reading level given at the high school level. If someone is telling you that the benchmark tests in high schools give any credible results, they have got to be joking.

Many students were so sick and tired of the benchmarks and the relentless test prep that they began drawing designs with the bubbles on their answer sheets. Some classes collaboratively drew "S curves" with the dots on answer sheets. (Gotta give the kids props for their creativity.)

By the way, all students have several reading levels. They have an 'independent level," an "instructional level," a "frustration level," and a "hearing capacity." As students get older, they normally score "instructional" at several levels. That is known as the "instructional range."

Students also have a silent reading comprehension level and an oral reading level which takes into account fluency.

The assessment of reading ability is a complex science. That is why any single assessment instrument cannot validly assess reading level. Informal assessment by a trained practitioner using several indicia including authentic materials, almost always yields more accurate assessment.

That is why those of us who understand the assessment of reading ability realize that high stakes testing is misguided from its inception. Its very premise is faulty.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 21, 2012 8:20 pm

The numbers are calculated based on 500 students graduating from grade 12 after attending 20 days of summer school.....all for the purpose of increasing the graduation rate.

How many are proficient? How many go on the college or apprenticeships? How many are employed or employable?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 23, 2012 5:04 pm

It looks like the charter schools are starting to have a very positive effect. We should covert the rest of the district schools to charters as quickly as possible.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 23, 2012 7:30 pm

Yes, hurry and spread the corruption throughout the district. What "positivie effect" were you referring to? Charters have failed to come up with the miracle cure they were claiming and that's with them cherrypicking their students. Want public schools to do the same then give them the right to dump kids out the way charters do.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 26, 2012 1:47 pm

Yes, lets go ask Ms. Joyner from the Math Civics and Science Charter School where NOBODY fails. EVER!! Yes, it's true. Isn't it amazing??? NOBODY ever fails ANY class. HOW DOES SHE DO IT?

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