Around this time every year, I eagerly start following stories about graduation, including graduation rates (data nerd, can’t help myself). I hear about local schools like Lighthouse and McClymonds who are simply knocking it out of the park and helping students defy a too common historical narrative.
Before we start, here’s a primer into the key metric I’ll be looking at: 4-year cohort graduation rates. Imagine tracking all the 9th graders who enter an Oakland high school – what percentage of them will graduate from 12th grade in four years? That’s essentially how 4-year cohort graduation rates are calculated. (This adjusts for variables like subtracting students who transfer out and adding students who join the cohort later in 10th-12th grade.)
Why this new metric matters so much: 4-year cohort graduation rates look at how effective a school/district is at getting their students – regardless of what level they enter high school at – out the school doors, with a diploma, and hopefully ready for college and career (more on this last one in a following blog).
1. Single-site Success Stories: There are some consistently successful high schools (e.g. Life, OSA) and high schools with strong recent progress (e.g. MPA Upper, Arise), but I wanted to highlight McClymonds for their impressive growth. To put into context the amazing feat that the Mack seniors and the supporting community (because it takes a village to raise our children) achieved last June, take a look below at McClymonds’s graduation rates over the past few years. In the space of 7 years, they went from a little over half of students graduating on time to nearly 8 out of 10 students graduating on time, with the dropout rate decreasing by 3 times. Wow!
Figure 1. Cohort Graduation and Dropout rates for McClymonds HS from 2011-18 with every other year displayed. Screenshot courtesy of dashboard created by OUSD Research, Data, and Assessment Department. (Click to dig deeper into the data!)
2. Historical Upward Trend: Increasing citywide cohort graduation rates over the past years show that all major racial groups are showing positive signs of overall improvement from 2009-18, mirroring statewide increases. (This citywide data is for all district and charter schools combined.) This also mirrors a nationwide trends in the graduation rate, which is currently at an all-time high of 83% of students graduating within four years (using the new methodology, see footnote). It’s worth noting how Oakland’s citywide average cohort graduation rate (75% in 2018) still trails the state’s (83% in 2018) and nation’s.
Figure 2. Oakland citywide cohort graduation rates by race from 2009-2018 **(See Footnote)
As we turn our attention to graduation season, it’s important to celebrate our graduates’ achievements (Class of 2019, I see you!) and look at the numbers deeply to understand how we can get closer to a 100% cohort graduation rate. But equally as important, especially in our technologically fast-paced future, we need to make sure our graduates are prepared to succeed in college and career. More on that in the next post!
** So, prior to 2017, the methodology that California Dept. of Ed (CDE) used to calculate the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) was not consistent with US Dept. of Ed requirements for ESSA reporting. Rather than going back and recalculating the ACGR for 2010-16, the CDE shifted to a new methodology for class of 2017 onwards. This means that the ACGRs for those two different time periods aren’t comparable and CDE strongly recommends against comparing rates from 2010-16 with those 2017 onwards.