February 27, 2013

Maine's graduation rate rises for the 3rd straight year

Educators say the 85.3 percent rate is a sign of progress but stress that there's still room to improve.

By Susan McMillan smcmillan@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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FINDINGS IN THE NEW DATA

The collective rate at Maine’s 12 private high schools was 91.5 percent.

The rate for economically disadvantaged students increased from 73 percent to 75.7 percent from 2010-11 to 2011-12, and the rate for students with disabilities increased from 66 percent to 70.12 percent.

The rate for student with limited English proficiency dropped from 78 percent to 74.07 percent over that time.

• The target for adequate yearly progress outlined in the federal No Child Left Behind Act is 83 percent. In Maine, 85 of 133 high schools were above that target.

The school with the highest graduation rate was a private school, John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, at 99.12 percent. The school with the lowest rate was Wiscasset High School, at 61.54 percent.

Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln saw the biggest increase from 2010-11 to 2011-12, going from a graduation rate of 71.43 to a rate of 87.23. Easton Junior-Senior High School saw the biggest drop, from 100 percent to 83 percent, although that school had just 20 graduates.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education released data for the first time that compared graduation rates among states using the same standard. Maine ranked 10th for the 2011-11 year, behind Vermont and New Hampshire but ahead of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island among New England states.

Maine’s graduation rate has been increasing ever since the state changed its formula, which is based on the number of students who entered ninth grade at the same time and graduated in no more than four years.

Data released Monday showed that Lake Region increased its graduation rate from 79.2 percent in 2010-11 to 91 percent in 2011-12. It was among the biggest one-year increases in Maine.

Although the No Child Left Behind Act uses test scores, not graduation rates, to measure improvement, Finn said the increase in the graduation rate shows that things are working.

One of the biggest changes at Lake Region was a shift to an academy-based model. Students now must enroll in one of six academies at the school: global studies; community service; natural science; design and engineering; sports, health and wellness; and arts.

The grant money helped train teachers on the new model and provided funds to pay teachers for after-school hours. It also created the position of student advocate, an employee who is dedicated to helping students who are falling behind.

The school won't know for at least another year whether it has made adequate yearly progress under the federal law, but the principal is confident.

"In fact, I've been trying since last year to get the education commissioner to come out here and see what we've done," Finn said.

In School Administrative District 51, covering Cumberland and North Yarmouth, school officials couldn't have asked for a much higher graduation rate.

Greely High School graduated 96.4 percent of its seniors on time last year, ranking fourth in Maine, behind only John Bapst High School in Bangor (99.1 percent), Wells High School (99.1 percent) and Erskine Academy in China (96.6 percent).

Superintendent Bob Hasson attributes Greely's success to programs that are aimed at supporting students as they move through the system.

The district relies on a committee called All Students Graduate, which works year-round to ensure that students get the academic help and support they need to graduate.

"We're aiming one day to be at 100 percent," Hasson said.

Another top-ranked school was Kennebunk High School, which graduated 93.8 percent of its students on time in 2012, according to the state.

"It's a signal that we are doing our job," said Kevin Knight, chairman of the Regional School Unit 21 board. "We want all of our students to succeed. One of the most basic measures of success is getting a student through high school."

For the second year in a row, Wiscasset High School had the lowest rate in Maine: 61.5 percent, down from 61.8 percent in 2011.

The statewide data showed gaps in graduation rates for several subgroups of students.

The rate for girls was 87.3 percent, while for boys it was 83.5 percent. Asian students had the highest graduation rate, 89.1 percent, while 71.7 percent of American Indian students graduated within four years.

Students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch graduated on time at a rate of 75.7 percent, while students who did not qualify were at 93.3 percent.

Students with limited English proficiency graduated on time at a rate of 74.1 percent, compared with 85.6 percent for English-proficient students.

Students with disabilities had a graduation rate of 70.1 percent, compared to 88.5 percent for students without disabilities.

– Portland Press Herald Staff Writers Dennis Hoey and Eric Russell contributed to this report.

Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

smcmillan@mainetoday.com

CORRECTION: This story and accompanying database were updated at 5:13 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 to correct Scarborough's graduation rates.  It was updated at 5:58 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 to clarify that the state graduation rate increased five percentage points, not five percent.

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