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Project Idaho: A look at graduation rates across the state

The latest numbers from 2017 show the national graduation rate at more than 84.6 percent. Idaho is well below that rate at 80.65 percent in 2018. (CBS2 File Photo)

CBS2 has launched a new initiative called Project Idaho. It's our focus on education throughout the state.

Our first story today is a deeper look at graduation rates.

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Right now the four-year graduation rate in Idaho is just over 80 percent. That's a new high for the state.

That also means two in 10 high school seniors aren't graduating on time or at all.

Idaho education officials sat they're encouraged by the growing graduation rate which is up more than 1 percent in three years.

“We had to start somewhere and so knowing we were at a much lower rate and not wanting to set districts up to not meet what could be an unattainable goal, we wanted it to be realistic for districts and so showing growth from 67, 68 percent to 80 percent is a great place to start," said Kari Overall, president of the Idaho Education Association. "Is it good enough? Absolutely not. Can Idaho do more? Absolutely.”

The latest numbers from 2017 show the national graduation rate at 84.6 percent. Idaho is well below that rate at 80.65 percent in 2018.

That national rate has improved for six straight years. In 2015, Idaho began using the federally required four-year cohort graduation formula.

“The starting point is the student enters ninth grade and we look four years in the future and do they complete that graduation requirements in those four years," Karlynn Laraway with the Idaho Department of Education said. "We take out any student who moves out of the school or state and we add any new students who come in to that timeline and really that’s our ending number and what percentage of students are meeting the state graduation requirements in four years.”

The rate does not include students who left and obtained a GED.

This year, the State Department of Education also started measuring five-year graduation rates.

“Four years for some students is doable. We recognize that," Laraway said. "For some students another year and maybe two is necessary to complete that.”

About 25 percent of Idaho students who didn’t graduate in four years came back for a fifth year. Eighty-two percent of those returning students who were originally set to graduate in 2017 received their high school diploma by 2018.

“I think the local educators know their students and their communities best and are really looking to reach their students We know when a student is leaving school often times our schools are reaching out to find out what resources that student might need to complete those requirements," Laraway said. "The more we do that the more that engagement happens at a local level i think these numbers will continue to be on the rise.”

Laraway says what it looks like for students to meet graduation requirements has changed over time and continues to change.

"We have alternative programs that i think are reaching more of our students. Our efforts at the state level look at our shift into mastery education and letting students meet those benchmarks rather than seat time, that transition is sort of taking on a new conversation." Laraway said."The traditional way when I went to school was you sat in class every day you finish the credit and now it can look different so that’s a really great opportunity for us to see how that transitions.”"

In 2018 about 43 percent of Idaho schools both rural and urban reported graduation rates of 90 percent or higher. Eighteen schools had 100 percent of students graduate on time.

“Idaho's a great place to live. We see that. Our economy is growing. People are moving to our state. The valley is consistently rated as a place that people want to move to and we want that to continue. We want Idaho to remain a state that is thriving and growing and we want schools that people and parents are proud to send their children to," Overall said. "We know that we have quality educators. We know we have phenomenal students. And as the legislature continue to invest in public education then students will continue to graduate at higher rates.”

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We are making a long-term commitment to reporting on education. If you have a story about Idaho education we should look into, email us at ProjectIdaho@kboi2.com


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