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Students at Abe Lincoln, from the school website

Last week, Superintendent Tom Boasberg reported to the Board about the new graduation rate, and according to the press release, it’s at 52%.  But that’s not what the Colorado Department of Education says.  They list DPS’ graduation rate at around 48% (click here to read the data).

I asked the Superintendent how he could account for that discrepancy.  He states that this number doesn’t include students that are in concurrent enrollment programs, for example.  For those of you that aren’t aware, these programs allow a high school student the possibility of graduating from high school with both a diploma and an associates’ degree.  In some cases, students are actually in high school for an extra year to be able to achieve this.  At any rate, I’m not sure I buy the Superintendent’s explanation, so I’ve asked for the breakdown, because it doesn’t jibe in my mind…probably not in yours, either.

Click here to download the Colorado Department of Education’s spreadsheet that breaks down the data.  The confusing piece of data there is the “completion rate,” which seems to reflect students that might fall under the concurrent enrollment scenario.  What’s worse is that the CDE leaves it up to districts to define what “completion” actually is.

Sometimes the data doesn’t show us the whole picture, though.  A great example is what’s happening at Abraham Lincoln High School.  According to the data, they show a 3% decrease in graduates, but principal Antonio Esquibel has tipped me off to why this seems to be:

During 2008-09 school year our Final Graduate Base was 345 and we graduated a total of 224, to give a percent of 64.9%.  Currently we have 38 students (class of 2009) who are participating in our APEX A (5th year program) Concurrent Enrollment Program.  In order for these students to be accepted into APEX A, they had to show that they completed all HS graduation requirements (which they did).  These students received a letter of completion and did participate in our 2009 graduation ceremony, but did not receive a HS diploma.  These students are currently enrolled full time at either Community College of Denver or Emily Griffith Opportunity School as college students for one year.  In order for us to pay for this 5th year of concurrent enrollment, they are not included in the current 2008-2009 graduation rate.

If these students were not participating in this great option that we have here at Lincoln, then they would have been included in the graduation rate for 2009 and our total graduate number would have been 262 and the graduation rate would have been 75.9% (an increase of 8%).  Since the 2005-06 school year we have increased our graduation rate by over 20%.

Each year we will continue to have students who will apply for 5th year concurrent enrollment opportunities and this will always have an effect on our graduation rate.  Also note that if more high schools pursue 5th year concurrent enrollment options (such as ASCENT), then graduation rates will decrease as a district.

I requested to the Strategy Department that a note be made for Lincoln HS regarding the slight decrease in graduation rate, but they said it would not happen (emphasis mine).

Why wouldn’t the District’s Strategy Department want to show the reality of the situation?  I think Mr. Esquibel’s grasp on the situation, as well as his leadership in offering these options, deserves commendation.  Certainly his hard work deserves a note as he requested.

I have asked the District to include a separate note whenever we talk about graduation rates so that the public has a clearer understanding of the data.