During the Superintendent’s remarks at the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting yesterday (see video here), Superintendent Carstarphen noted that over 2,250 students had graduated this year as compared to 1,775 graduating students last year. The increase of 475 or 26% is an initial indication that the graduation rate – that has remained in the 58-59% level for the last two years – will rise significantly.
The graduation rate is based on the adjusted cohort of 9th grade students who graduate in four years. The FY13 and FY14 9th grade cohorts were 3,005 and 3,100, respectively. The FY15 9th grade cohort has to be vetted by the GA DOE prior to announcing the statewide graduation rates in October, but it is likely that the FY15 9th grade cohort did not change dramatically from prior years. If this is the case, then a conservative estimate for the FY15 APS graduation rate is likely to be in the 63-66% range – and maybe even higher.
An increase in the graduation rate of 4-7% is very encouraging and is likely the result of changes implemented by the Superintendent during the year, including a focus on student attendance. In addition, the District is now looking closely at a large number of leading indicators that provide insight into the trajectory of student performance and retention and allow for quick intervention as needed.
It is also important to note that during Carstarphen’s tenure as the Superintendent of the Austin Independent School District, graduation rates increased from 74.3% in 2009 (the year prior to her arrival) to 84.1% in 2013 – and the rate in FY14 is likely to increase by at least another 1.0%. This represents a greater than 11.0% rise during her five years in Austin. During that time, Carstarphen also focused on student attendance as well as many other initiatives that drove graduation rates up significantly across all demographics.