News

More students graduating, fewer dropping out

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

The percentage of high school students graduating on time from the Federal Way school district rose from 2003 to 2004, and the percentage dropping out fell, according to a state report.

The class of 2004 had 78 percent of the students graduating within four years. That grows to 85 percent counting students who graduated but not in four years.

In 2003, 5.5 percent of the high school students –– freshmen through seniors –– dropped out. That fell in 2004 to 3.8 percent.

The figures are part of a report the state released last week, claiming graduation rates have increased while dropouts have decreased across the state.

In Washington, 21.5 percent of 2004’s class dropped out before graduation. More than 24 percent of the statewide 2003 class quit before getting their diplomas.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson credited the smaller dropout and higher graduation percentages to schools doing a better job of retaining and graduating students, and the districts and state keeping better track of students graduating and dropping out.

Comparing graduation rates and dropout figures from year to year in the past has been troublesome. Until the federal No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001 stipulating how districts and states needed to report the figures, school districts across the state had reported graduation and drop out rates from different perspectives.

The data for 2004 and 2003 used the same methodology and can be compared, said Kim Schmanke, a spokeswoman for Bergeson.

Statewide, a little more than 70 percent of students graduated in four years in 2004 –– up four points from 2003. The graduation rate also dropped from 6.7 percent in 2003 to 5.8 percent in 2005.

Still, there are the “unknown” students districts report as dropouts. They made up 49.6 percent of the dropout category. These students don’t tell districts they are leaving and where they are going. Consequently, the districts report them as dropouts with learning if they enrolled elsewhere, took a job or earned their General Educational Development (GED) certificate.

Districts don’t have computer systems that can talk to each other to keep each other apprised of transferring students. State law requires districts to report students who leave or enroll in their districts, but it doesn’t direct them to contact the district where the student was enrolled previously.

Bergeson’s department stated it researched the whereabouts of students listed as unknown and located 600 who were removed from the list.

The second-largest group –– 15.8 percent –– told districts they were leaving because school was not for them.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires these figures to be published by states annually.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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