District's graduation figures to be recalculated

Ashland High School's graduation rate is expected to fall by as much as 10 percent this school year, due to a change in the way the rate is calculated, not because of more dropouts, district officials said.

For the past four years, the district has boasted a 90 to 93 percent graduation rate, well above the state target of 68 percent, according to the district.

This year the district's graduation rate is expected to be about 83 percent, said Samuel Bogdanove, the district's director of student services. Graduation rates are expected to be announced today by the state Department of Education.

"That's sad because it's a really outstanding statistic that we have now, our low dropout rate," said Heidi Parker, vice chairwoman of the school board.

Previously, graduation rates were determined using the state's formula of dividing the number of students who graduated by the sum of the number of graduates and the number of dropouts, Bogdanove said.

Starting this school year, the state will calculate graduation rates using the federal government's formula. The federal government will require all states to use its graduation formula next academic year, so data from different states can be easily compared, Bogdanove said.

"I think there is a benefit to having a common measure for states, because there have been all kinds of different formulas out there," he said.

The federal formula divides the number of graduates in a cohort, or group, that began high school at the same time four years prior, divided by the total number of students in the cohort.

Unlike the old formula, students who take more than four years to graduate and those who receive alternative certificates or a GED (the certificate for general education development) will not be counted as graduates, Bogdanove said.

"It makes it more challenging for us because we do have some of those alternatives," Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said. "A student who takes five years to graduate, they would be counted as a dropout."

Last academic year, 12 students received their GED and in the previous year, 23 did, according to the district.

Bogdanove said the new graduation rate formula won't prompt the district to push students to graduate in four years if they are more suited to some other alternative program.

"We always want kids to be able to learn at that rate that's appropriate for them," he said. "I don't think that this is going to change how we work with individual students who are struggling a little bit or who need a little bit of extended time."

The state is urging all districts to have a 90 percent graduation rate by 2021. Districts that don't meet that goal will be required to show a certain percentage of improvement each year, Bogdanove said. The exact requirements have not been set, he said.

The new graduation rate calculations shouldn't impact the district's funding next year, Bogdanove said.

"Everybody's going to be in the same boat," he said. "This is just changing the scale."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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