Data Corner: High School Graduation - Eastside Pathways
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Data Corner: High School Graduation

One of the five Eastside Pathways goals is that every youth graduates from high school prepared for their postsecondary plan. We measure this by tracking high school graduation rates.

An interesting question has reemerged: should we be tracking four-year or five-year graduation rates? Both are published by the state. An Eastside Pathways indicators task force in 2016 recommended using the five-year rates as our core indicator but to look at both measures regularly. Per a request from several partners, the Data Council is revisiting this decision.

Graduating from high school in four years is considered “on time” for most students. For a smaller subset, most commonly students in special education or who are still learning English, a fifth year (or more) may be needed.

Discussion Points

The argument in favor of using a four-year rate is that it is easily understood by the public, aligned to the way school staff and district reporting typically look at graduation and supports the work of partner organizations who have explicit areas of work around on-time graduation. It also does a better job of showing the real need in Bellevue which is sometimes masked by high numbers overall. The concern with this rate is that it may stigmatize the trajectory of students who do truly need additional time to graduate.

The argument in favor of using a five-year rate is that it is inclusive of students in the longer timeframe. We know a 100% target is not appropriate for four-year graduation rates; it is closer to appropriate for five-year rates. Inclusion was the consideration that ultimately tipped the indicators task force to its decision last year. The concern with this rate is that it can hide systems issues. For example, many English Language Learners and students with disabilities can and do graduate in four years, but they need support to do so. Stretching the graduation timeline to five years may do a disservice to individual students who would thrive if held to a higher standard.

What’s Next

The Data Council is drafting a recommendation to the Partner Leadership Committee for how the partnership should track graduation rates. The tentative proposal is to look at and report on both rates as core indicators. Data Council members are continuing discussions this month before finalizing a recommendation on December 18.

If you would like to share your thoughts, please contact Kelly Jones or get in touch with a member of the Data Council:

Phoebe Anderson, Child Care Resources

Siri Bliesner, Hopelink and Lake Washington School Board

Jolynn Kenney, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound

Tim Krieger, Lake Washington School District

Alex O’Reilly, City of Bellevue

Sarah Oppenheimer, King County Housing Authority

Stephanie Philio, KidsQuest Children’s Museum

Ryan Scott, Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue

Lynne Simpson, Bellevue School District

Christy Stangland, City of Bellevue

Larry Wright, Lake Washington Schools Foundation