May 6, 2011

Local graduation rates on the rise

Fourteen out of 16 area high schools saw a greater percentage of their students graduate last year than the year before, according to state data released Thursday.

The 16 schools in Kennebec, Somerset, Franklin and Waldo counties also graduated a higher percentage of students in 2010 than schools statewide. The local average of students graduating in four years was about 86.47 percent, while the average of schools across Maine was 82.82 percent.

Overall, the statewide average graduation rate for publicly funded high schools rose by more than two percentage points from 2009 to 2010, according to the Maine Department of Education. The rate includes 122 public high schools, plus 11 private high schools with more than 60 percent of students paid for with public funds.

At local schools, the average graduation rate increased 5.3 percentage points from 2009 to 2010.

Though the numbers show a growing percentage of students graduating in Maine, there is still work to be done, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said.

"While the data show a noticeable improvement over the previous year, we can't be satisfied when nearly one out of five students who enters ninth grade does not graduate in four years," Bowen said in a statement.

Eighty-eight schools in Maine showed an increase in their graduation rate over the previous year; 43 showed a decrease; and two showed no change, according to the education department. Almost half of all the schools still have a graduation rate lower than 83 percent -- the rate required to show Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Ten out of the 16 area schools met that 83 percent threshold in 2010; just five met it in 2009.

Several area schools showed large gains, including Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, which improved by nearly 17 percentage points, to a graduation rate of 97.65 percent.

Forest Hills Consolidated School in Jackman improved more than 13 percentage points, to a graduation rate of 93.33 percent. Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School in Bingham improved more than 12 percentage points, to a total graduation rate of 93.75 percent. And Mt. Abram Regional High School in Salem Township improved more than 11 percentage points, to a graduation rate of 89.74 percent.

"Number one, it's attributed to the staff and the focus they've had over the last few years," said John Davis, superintendent in Jackman. "We're going to expect to move to that 100 percent level in the next few years."

The three area high schools that made it on a list of Maine's 10 low-achieving schools, which is based largely on a lack of improvement on SAT scores over the last three years, all showed progress with their graduation rates.

Madison Area Memorial High School showed the most improvement of the three schools, with an increase of 6.14 percentage points, to a total graduation rate of 85.5 percent. Nokomis Regional High School in Newport saw an increase of 4.81 percent, to a total graduation rate of 77.22 percent. Lawrence High School in Fairfield saw an increase of 4.69 percent, to a total graduation rate of 90.75 percent.

Two local schools saw a decrease in the percentage of students graduating: Skowhegan Area High School dipped 1.26 percentage points, to a graduation rate of 77.87 percent; and Winslow High School dropped 10.26 percentage points, to a graduation rate of 69.29 percent.

This is the second year Maine is reporting graduation rates based on a method that calculates the rate for a single "cohort" of students, according to the education department. That means the rate takes into account all the students who enter ninth grade at the same time and who graduated in no more than four years.

The 2010 and 2009 rates can be compared but not previous years, as a different method was used then.

The rate under the new method does not include students who graduate in five or six years and does not include students who may return to school later to earn a GED diploma.

To view the data, visit: http://1.usa.gov/jebUJI.

Erin Rhoda -- 474-9534

erhoda@centralmaine.com

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