Graduation rate statewide falls to about 79 percent

Apr 30, 2013 By Bob Moen, The Associated Press

Fremont County School District 21 in Fort Washakie had the lowest graduation rate at 11 percent, with two of its 18 seniors graduating.

Nearly 1 in 5 students in Wyoming high schools failed to graduate on time last year as the state graduation rate fell slightly to about 79 percent in 2011-12, according to Wyoming Department of Education figures released Friday.

Last year's rate is down nearly a percentage point from the previous year, when it was about 80 percent. And it's down about a point and a half from 2009-10.

Jim Rose, state Education Department interim director, said the statewide rate is distressing but the data from the agency's report on graduation rates can be used to help achieve improvement.

"I think it's almost universal that anyone in the state involved in education would have to look at the rate of graduation that we have currently and say that 'Well we're not satisfied,'" Rose said. "But it gives us some information that we can use in our efforts and all the various pieces of work that are being done in the department and out in the school districts to improve the opportunities and the success of students."

Spending about $1 billion a year, Wyoming is among the states that spend the most money per capita on K-12 education. Not satisfied with the success of students overall in the state for the amount of money being spent, the state Legislature is in the process of overhauling the education system with the goal of improving student performance.

The effort includes holding schools and educators accountable for poor student performance. The Legislature went so far as to strip state Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill of power as head of the Education Department because lawmakers and education consultants said she was hindering the effort. Hill is fighting the changes through a lawsuit challenging their constitutionality.

In the 2011-12 school year, about 5,420 students graduated on time from high school while 1,450 did not.

Washakie County School District 2 in Ten Sleep had the highest graduation rate in the state, with all seven of its students graduating on time. On the other hand, Fremont County School District 21 in Fort Washakie had the lowest graduation rate at 11 percent, with just two of its 18 seniors graduating.

Rose said the 11 percent rate is sobering, but information from the graduation rate report can be tied into the accountability effort and used to help guide districts, schools and state leaders in making improvements.

"It's what we do with it that I think is really important," he said.

According to the state figures, about 82 percent of Wyoming's female students finished high school on time, compared to about 77 percent of male students.

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