Looking at All Factors in State Graduation Rates

Sue Belish, State Board of Education
Sue Belish, State Board of Education

Wyoming statewide graduation rates traditionally hover right around 80 percent – the most recent State Board of Education report for the class of 2010 was 80.4 percent. Rates at Sheridan county schools have recently been in the mid-to-upper 80s.

The US Department of Education requires states to use the Federal Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate that essentially takes the students who graduate in four years divided by a cohort of students that actually began with that class as ninth graders.

State of Wyoming School Board Member Sue Belish says that there are other factors not included in these numbers.

She says that a three-tier system should be used when talking about graduation.

The state of Wyoming does release five-and six-year graduation rates to “provide a more complete picture of student outcomes” according to the Wyoming Department of Education's website.

Comparing Wyoming to the rest of the country

Nationwide comparisons are difficult, because a base statute for evaluating all states equally does not exist, said Belish. Among several factors that create dispute over comparisons, it is hard to track students who transfer from state to state.

Various organizations such as the USDE National Center for Education Statistics and Education Week publish state trends that can be compared.

In a report from June, Education Week said that Wyoming, from 1998 to 2008 actually declined in grad rate; 71.9 percent to 71.3 percent. These numbers obviously differ from the already mentioned Wyoming Department of Education statistics, which are about 6 to 8 percent higher from year to year.

Comparisons can be used if the formulas used to calculate each state's graduation rate statistic are recognized.

An ongoing debate, Belish reiterated that it is important to include several factors when discussing the issue.

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