While the statewide four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2011 dropped to 63 percent, a decrease of 4.3 percent over the year before, the Roswell Independent School District’s graduation rates for the same period remained relatively unchanged. The announcement from the New Mexico Public Education Department came on the heels of commencement ceremonies across much of the state. It is the earliest the NMPED has ever released the statewide graduation rate.
Collectively, the RISD had a 71.6 percent high school graduation rate for its 2011 class. This number is similar to last year’s which was around 73 percent, RISD Superintendent Michael Gottlieb estimated. He expressed his satisfaction with the rate stating, “There has been a lot of effort by all staff to increase the graduation rate throughout all the high schools in the district.”
Gottlieb strongly correlated attendance with high school graduation rates. He cited a 5-year study of learning gaps executed by Dr. Suchint Sarangarm, assistant superintendent for assessment accountability and technology. “Ten days of absences a year, you won’t be proficient. That is a critical aspect to graduation rates,” Gottlieb said.
Federal regulations instigated a new method to calculate the graduation rate this year. The changed method improved calculations to include student populations who were previously excluded, according to the NMPED. The calculations encompass all students who were first-time freshmen four years earlier and who graduated by Aug. 1 of their fourth year. This is the rate utilized for annual school and district accountability.
Additionally, cohorts are tracked for one additional year past their expected graduation year, which yields a 5-year graduation rate.
Goddard High saw the highest graduation rate, over a 5-year period, of the three high schools in the district. The 2010 Cohort showed Goddard as having an 80 percent rate. Roswell High and University High have a 76 and nearly 58 percent rates, respectively, over the same period.
“We’ve kept our standards high and in doing so we offer the idea that you can come back and finish up what you didn’t get. That’s why we have that fifth year graduation rate,” Gottlieb said.
The fifth year graduation rate is particulary critical at University High, he said, where some students have children, or work full time while attending school.
Yet overall, “Staff at the three high schools have spent a substantial amount of time visiting with seniors,” he said. Other measures taken include the introduction of a ‘five-year next step plan’ to all eighth-grade students in the district. This plan aids the students in exploring their future goals and aspirations, Gottlieb said. Intervention classes are also available for those students who need extra support during the day. Tutoring after school is also made available.
“The idea is we should be lifelong learners and if you have that ability to move up that ladder, school is there for us. The opportunity is there … That’s what we’ve tried to constantly drill into our kids, the opportunity is there. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,” Gottlieb said.
Sarangarm and Gottlieb predicted the 2012 graduation rates for the district to be slightly higher. This rate will not be announced until next year.