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Graduation rates for county schools cover a wide range

Apr 8, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Five of the eight school districts in Fremont County had graduation rates for the 2010-11 academic year higher than the state's average of 79.7 percent.

Fremont County School District 2 in Dubois boasted the highest graduation rate locally last year, with 19 of 21 seniors receiving a diploma, about a 90.5 percent rate.

According to data compiled by the Wyoming Department of Education, Dubois had the sixth-best graduation rate among the 48 school districts in Wyoming.

Dubois's most recent figure is an increase from nearly 78 percent reported in the 2009-10 school year.

Four-year stats

The WDE calculates graduation rates based on a group of students who begin as first-time ninth-graders in a particular school year and then graduate with a regular high school diploma in four or fewer years.

School District 24 in Shoshoni reported a graduation rate of roughly 86 percent, which is down from 90 percent the previous year.

Despite being one of the highest graduation rates in the county, superintendent Tammy Cox said Shoshoni has done better in past years.

"Shoshoni's graduation rate is 86 percent and is the lowest it has been for several years," Cox said.

For the small district, it was a matter of three students who dropped out that brought down last year's graduation rate.

Lander, Riverton

Lander and Riverton experienced an increase in graduation rates from 2009-10 to 2010-11, both reporting about a 83.5 percent figure.

According to the WDE report, Riverton's School District 25's most recent graduation rate of 83.5 percent is up from 76.65 percent in 2009-10.

School District 1 in Lander reported a graduation rate of 83.55 percent for the academic year.

The district's rate is an average between the 88.89 percent of seniors at Lander Valley High School and 41.18 percent of seniors at Pathfinder High School who earned a diploma last year.

The latest figure for Lander is up from about 76 percent in 2009-10.

"I am pleased that last year's district graduation rate showed improvement, and I am pleased that the Lander Valley High School graduation rate is approaching 90 percent," said Lander superintendent Mike Bowman. "However, we want all students who enter our schools to graduate from high school, so even having one student not graduate is one too many."

Smaller schools

Wind River, School District 6, saw an increase from 75 percent to 80 percent last year.

School District 14, Wyoming Indian, reported a graduation rate of 43.75 percent, which is down from about 53 percent the year before.

Arapahoe School District 38's graduation rate remained about the same at roughly 17 percent.

School District 21 in Fort Washakie, according to the report, had an approximate 14 percent graduation rate last year. This is up from 12 percent the previous year.

"The cohort graduation rate system is not an accurate measure of success for small schools with high mobility," said Fort Washakie Charter High School principal Shad Hamilton.

"Virtually none of our students start high school at our school. Almost all of them enroll here only after getting behind in another school. I don't mind accountability, but an equal opportunity is lacking here."

Five-year cohort

For the first time, the WDE graduation rate report also included data of students who graduate within five years.

"The WDE understands many successful students take more than four years to graduate and applauds their commitment," the report states.

"Because of this, the WDE has also calculated five-year graduation rates to provide a more compete picture of student outcomes."

According to the report, Lander's five-year cohort graduation rate last year was slightly above 78 percent.

Other rates countywide were: about 79 percent for Dubois, 80 percent for Wind River, nearly 64 percent for Wyoming Indian, about 23 percent for Fort Washakie, nearly 86 percent for Shoshoni, about 81.5 percent for Riverton and 21 percent for Arapahoe.

"I think the five-year cohort is a good figure to track," said Wind River superintendent Diana Clapp.

"It provides an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate those students who, for whatever reason, had the commitment to stay in school and finish their degrees."

Bowman noted the graduation rate formula does not count students as graduates if they graduate from high school after their "cohort" does.

"The graduation rate reported by the Wyoming Department of Education is based on a formula determined by the U.S. Department of Education," Bowman said.

Bowman said students who have mental disabilities and do not have the cognitive skills to learn high school curriculum are not counted as graduates.

School District 1 developed a "graduation/completer" rate that gives the district credit for students who graduate before they are 21 years old and credit for students with significant cognitive deficits if they complete their individual education plan requirements by age 21.

"We also considered students who were with us for at least one year," Bowman said. "In using this criteria, our 2010-11 graduation/completer rate was 94 percent compared to the reported graduation rate of 83.55 percent."

Adequate Yearly Progress

Graduation rate is a factor in school districts' Wyoming Adequate Yearly Progress determinations and districts were supposed to achieve an 80-percent rate for the 2010-11 academic year.

According to the WDE, nine districts statewide did not meet the requirement, including Wyoming Indian, Arapahoe and Fort Washakie.

How many grads?

Riverton High School

83.5 percent

(Up from 76.65)

Lander Valley High School

83.55 percent

(Up from 76 percent)

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