One of my favorite things to do is review data on the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website. I love it even more when I see significant positive changes. When I can verify data is factual, well, I am just thrilled.
Two out of three ain't bad.
One number I've been keeping a close eye on is the four-year graduation rate in the Cape Girardeau School District. For 2011, the rate was 67.5 percent. That number has raised some eyebrows in our community, especially when it was used in a comparison with rates in nearby districts in a recent Southeast Missourian article. At the last meeting of the school board, one member asked administrators to bring data that supports the success of interventions designed to make improvements in student outcomes to the next meeting. Not happy with the rate, he wanted to see proof of how well those interventions were working.
If numbers don't lie (which the one I am about to share with you might, although it will be due to reporting that is not yet complete and working out kinks in a fairly new system), then something, possibly the instructional interventions, is working to get more students graduating on time.
The four-year graduation rate for the school district posted at this moment on the DESE website is 78.9 percent. An 11.4 percent rise. In one year. Other data reported on the DESE portal shows that the number of dropouts is down from 80 in 2011 to 47 in 2012.
I've written to the district superintendents and to Cape Girardeau Central High School Mike Cowan to try to confirm this percentage. I also just hung up the phone with a DESE representative, who said those numbers are in fact what the district recently submitted, and once the department has a chance to closely review them, they could become official on Aug. 14 when the state releases district report cards.
Both Cowan and superintendent Jim Welker have said they believe real improvement will be seen once the numbers are out for the class of 2012. So far, looks like like they are correct in their assumptions.
The DESE rep did say, however, there is potential for the numbers to change. Missouri is only in the second year of using the four-year cohort method to compute graduation rates, therefore there is potential for miscalculations and reporting errors. But the rate could climb even more. Districts have until the last Wednesday in September to "recover" their dropouts for inclusion in graduation rate calculations. This rule ensures students who began their freshman year as a member of the class of 2012 and finish summer school or recover credit in other ways to earn the requirements for their high school diploma are counted with their class.
During the past several years, numerous strategies for improving the graduation rate and attendance have been employed by the district, including adding a social worker and parent liaisons, partnering with juvenile authorities and increasing teacher collaboration. The 2012-2013 school year will bring more efforts by the district in the form of full implementation of Professional Learning Communities and a program designed to improve behavior.
Have the bus wheels in Taylor Crowe's cartoon stopped spinning? Is the district finally coming out of a rut?
Come mid-August, I guess we'll all see for sure. Maybe we'll all be thrilled.