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District's graduation rates high overall, but areas to watch

Nine out of 10 south Washington County students graduate high school on time, ranking the district third among its peer districts.

In 2012, nearly 91 percent of students in District 833's three high schools graduated on time. That figure has hovered between 89 percent and 91 percent since 2009.

Of 14 similar districts, only White Bear Lake and Lakeville posted graduation rates higher than District 833. The statewide graduation rate last year was 77 percent.

While the overall results were viewed as positive, south Washington County high schools continue to see a disparity in graduation rates between white students and those who are Hispanic and black. The gap ranged from 7 percent lower among Hispanic students to 10 percent less among black students. Asian students graduated at a rate of nearly 94 percent.

However, the district's racial minorities overall posted graduation rates about 30 percent higher than the statewide results.

"Most of our students are graduating and they're graduating on time," said Tom LaBounty, the district's director of research, evaluation and assessment. He said the district should continue to address the graduation rate gaps between groups of students.

LaBounty presented the graduation data last week during a District 833 School Board discussion of the district's career and college readiness results. School-specific data was not in the report.

The district data also showed that more students are preparing to go to college.

ACT exam participation rate has increased in recent years. About 80 percent of District 833 graduates in 2012 had taken the college prep exam, up from 71 percent in 2009.

The district's 2012 ACT scores were higher than the state and national averages in all four categories - English, math, reading and science.

LaBounty said the college readiness information, including ACT results, is used by school counselors as they work to prepare students for post-secondary education. Also, the graduation data is shared with the high school principals.

Keith Ryskoski, assistant superintendent for secondary education, said principals will use the data as they're developing site plans for their buildings. Also, the data is used as the district reviews its professional development to ensure teachers are equipped to prepare students for the college readiness tests.

Here are other graduation and college preparatory test findings:

- Roughly 60 percent of District 833 students who enroll in college within a year of graduation will earn a degree within six years.

- English is the strongest subject and science is the weakest area for students taking college readiness benchmark tests in eighth grade and 10th grade.

- The district's average composite ACT score was 23.6 in 2012. That score ranked sixth among 14 similar districts. The state average score was 22.8 on the 36 scale.

- The district has a 2 percent dropout rate.

- More students are enrolling in college immediately or within a year of high school graduate. In 2003, 72 percent of students enrolled in a two- or four-year college within a year of graduating. In 2011, that jumped to 80 percent.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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