Delaware’s high school graduation rates rise

DOVER — Public high schools in Delaware are making the grade when it comes to increasing graduation rates and lowering the number of students who drop out.

The annual Delaware Department of Education (DDE) reports show that the state’s public high school graduation rate hit a record high in 2018 with an overall graduation rate of 86.69 percent in 2018, an increase from 85.75 percent in 2017.

The graduation rates for several student subgroups, including African American (83.68 percent), American Indian (89.19), Hispanic (83.31), low-income (77.88), English leaders (75.44) and students with disabilities (69.80), are also up from 2017.

The graduation rate tracks the percentage of ninth-grade students who graduate with a regular high school diploma within four years. Out of the 10,287 students in the Class of 2018, a total of 8,918 students graduated with a regular diploma.

The 2018 rate is the highest since the state changed how it calculates graduation rates in 2010-11.

“Every day, educators across our state are focused on the children most at risk for dropping out or not graduating on time,” Delaware Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said. “They are diligently working to target interventions and supports that meet their students’ needs.

“Delaware’s educators deserve credit for these improvements. We know our work is not done, and we will continue to focus on those students who need more support. We must ensure that every child completes his or her education.”

Downstate schools
Polytech High School had the highest 2018 graduation rate among high schools in Kent County with a rate above 95 percent, ahead of Caesar Rodney’s rate of 94.40 percent.

Polytech Principal Ryan Fuller credited his student body, as well as the school’s teachers, with for their dedication to academics.
“We are extremely proud of our students for their hard work and perseverance,” Principal Fuller said. “We are also proud of our dedicated staff who have designed our support systems to consistently get our students across the finish line and accepted into military service, career employment and/or college.”

Polytech High grads from this year.

Other 2018 graduation rates among Kent County public high schools included: Smyrna (92.80), Early College High School at Delaware State University (87.84), Milford (87.39), Lake Forest (83.33), Dover (78.41), First State Military Academy (75.00) and Positive Outcomes Charter School (70.37).

Sussex Tech rated the highest among public high schools in Sussex County by recording a rate above 95 percent, ahead of Delmar’s graduation rate of 92.36 percent. The school celebrated a graduating class of 250 students earlier this month.

“We are extremely proud of our graduates for their accomplishments and triumphs,” Sussex Tech Principal Dr. John Demby said. “Our students complete a rigorous three-year career-technical program and meet all state academic graduation requirements.

“In many cases, they also earn industry-recognized certifications that prepare them for employment or additional education.

“Whether they’re headed to careers, college, or military service, Ravens know how to rise.”

The graduation rates among other public high schools in Sussex County included: Cape Henlopen (91.98), Indian River (90.55), Sussex Central (88.66), Laurel (86.40), Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences (84.34), Woodbridge (80.95) and Seaford (74.24).

Alison May, spokesperson for the DEA, said the association cannot list Polytech and Sussex Tech’s actual rates due to student privacy laws.
Not counted as graduates in the required formula are those students who earn certificates; 85 students from the Class of 2018 did so. Also not counted as graduates are those students who remain in school after their fourth year of graduation to continue their education. For the Class of 2018, 151 students remained in school.

For that reason, the state also looks at five- and six-year graduation rates. The graduation rate for the Class of 2016 was 84.66 percent at the end of four years, 85.63 percent at the end of five years and 85.79 percent at the end of six years.

Dropout rate also declines
The DED reports also noted that the dropout rate saw a slight decrease in 2018 as 699 of the 41,593 students enrolled in grades 9-12 dropped out for a rate of 1.68 percent, down from the 2017 rate of 1.71 percent.

The annual dropout rate is calculated from grades 9 to 12, as prescribed by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), which provides data to the federal reporting system.

The rate represents the total number of students (grades 9-12) who dropped out in a single year, divided by the total enrollment of the same school year.
Data also is collected from private schools and families who homeschool their children. That information is only used to verify whether students transferred from public to private and home schools.

The annual report also looks at dropouts by student demographic. Statewide in the 2017-2018 school year, of the 699 who dropped out, 282 were white/other, 258 were African American and 159 were Hispanic. The majority of dropouts were male (432) and the largest number were enrolled in the 10th grade (215). Students cited academic, personal and economic reasons for why they left school.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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