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Reports from Policy Analysts

Rising Graduation Rates

Submitted On: Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Analyst: Dyer, Darlene/Wood River High School

On Monday, October 17, President Barack Obama reported that 2014-15 national graduation rates have reached a high of 83.2 percent including students in ethnic groups, disabled students, and those from low-income families.  Included in this total are 90.2 percent for Asian Americans, 87.6 for white students, 77.8 percent for Hispanics, 74.6 percent for African-Americans, and 71.6 percent for Native Americans.  

Even Idaho’s rates have increased under the federal formula it recently took advantage of.  The “new” graduation rate calculation was actually established in 2008 to create a more accurate and uniform method of counting across states, which is based on a four-year cohort group (starting in 9th grade). However, Idaho did not utilize this process until the 2013-14 school year.  In February, the Idaho State Department of Education released its second-year graduation rate according to the new federal calculation instituted for the 2013-14 baseline. The 2014-15 percentage of students receiving a high school diploma in four years is 78.9 percent, up from the baseline the previous year of 77.3%.  State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra said that these numbers reflect the “positive movement in the state regarding our graduation rate under the new calculation...and we will continue to place focus on the graduation rate moving forward….”

Yet Idaho’s 78.9 percent is well below the national average. While this gap narrowed in 2014-15, 4.3 percent compared to a 5 percent difference nationally in 2013-14, Idaho’s graduation rate currently ranks 39th.  Many Idaho politicians and businessmen had previously believed our state had one of the highest rates.  But the new tracking system revealed numbers much lower. The new calculation creates a category of “non-graduates” who had previously been counted as graduates or removed entirely.  Such non-graduates include alternative school students, special education students who have adapted guidelines, students not assigned a specific exit code, transfer students to other states, and other age or medical reasons. With such students being counted “only 2.6 percent of the 2014-15 Idaho graduates were reported as known or possible dropouts….”

In Blaine County, which has three high schools, in 2013-14 the graduation rate was 84 percent, and in 2015 87.5 percent of students graduated. “Twenty-five fourth-year students didn’t graduate with the rest of their class, down from 32 in 2014. Students who don’t graduate on time but who remain in high school for a fifth year to earn their diplomas are counted among each year’s non-graduates,” stated John Blackman, Assistant Superintendent.   


“Department Releases Second Year Graduation Rate Under New Calculation     Showing Increase.”  Press Release .  Idaho State Department of  Education. 12 Feb. 2016.


“High School Graduation Rate Reaches New High.”  Education Week . 17 Oct. 2016.


“Idaho’s Graduation Rate.”  SDE Press Kit.  Idaho State Department of Education.


Kerstetter, Andy.“School District Graduation Rate Increases Slightly.” Idaho Mountain Express. 12 Feb. 2016.


Richert, Kevin. “Idaho’s Graduation Rate Ranks No. 39 Nationally.”  Idaho Education News. 17 Oct. 2016.

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