The four-year graduation rates for students at Dexter High School increased to 92.5 percent, up 3 percent from the 2011 rate of 89.6 percent, according to data released Wednesday by the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI).
Dexter graduated 296 students last year out of its four-year cohort of 320 students. The district also outpaced the statewide graduation average by more than 15 percent, according to the report.
Students are divided into "cohorts"—a combination of students who began ninth grade in the district four years prior, and including students who transferred in or our within the four year period. So for 2012 graduates, the cohort includes students who began high school in Dexter in 2008, or transferred into the district before 2012 graduation.
The state also tracks students who were off track for four-year graduation but continuing their education, those who graduated or dropped out past the four-year mark, and those who completed their GED or reached the maximum special education age.
DHS Principal Kit Moran said the data shows a positive upward trend, however he said there is still more work to accomplish, particularly with at-risk and special needs students.
"We're glad that our graduation rate is in the high 90s, but we wish it was higher," Moran said.
One of the biggest challenges is tackling the district's drop out rate that is currently 5.63 percent, he said.
"Those kids are literally leaving the school or just stop showing up," Moran said.
Often administration officials never hear if the student has pursued a GED, transfered to another school district, or entered the workforce.
To help prevent dropouts, Moran said high school counselors monitor students' progress at the end of their freshmen year to make sure an indvidual is on track to graduate.
"Once we evaluate an at-risk student's progress, our challenge is to focus on what can we do to help him or her graduate in four years," he said. "I wish we had an extra year to work with those students without being penalized by the state."
This year the district implemented a learning lab that is open three days a week for an hour after school to allow teachers extra time to work with students.
"There's no magic answer," Moran said. "We try to work with each student to make sure they are successful."
Across Michigan, four-year graduation rates for students expected to graduate last spring increased to 76.24 percent, up 1.9 percent from the 2011 rate of 74.33.
“These numbers reflect the highest rates we have seen since we started reporting the data using a cohort methodology,” said CEPI director Thomas Howell. “This methodology allows us to track individual students from the first time they enroll as ninth-graders and has resulted in a more accurate measure of high school success for our students.”
More than 53 percent of Michigan’s school districts saw higher graduation rates. The largest increase in graduation rates throughout a five-year period were seen in several racial and ethnic groups. According to the report, rates for black students reached 59.93 percent last year, an increase of 3.64 percent since 2008. Hispanic student rates were at 64.3 percent, up 3.97 percent. This year’s rate reflects that 73.52 percent of multiracial students graduated in four years, increasing the annual rate by 3.52 percent since 2008.
“This is more positive news for Michigan public schools,” said state superintendent Mike Flanagan. “This is reflective of how our teachers and students are succeeding with the rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum and being better prepared to continue Michigan’s economic comeback. We must stay on this positive course and keep our standards high and Michigan Merit Curriculum intact.”
For more information about Dexter student enrollment, including students who stayed in school longer to earn a diploma in five or six years, visit www.mischooldata.org.