LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan’s high school graduation rate continues to lag below the national average and the Detroit Public Schools rate is even lower, placing in the bottom half of comparable city districts, a national report found.
The United States posted a record 80 percent graduation rate in 2012, according to a report based on federal education data to be presented Monday at the Building a GradNation Summit. But Michigan’s slight increase - to 76 percent in 2012 from 74.3 percent in 2011 - didn’t move it out of the bottom third of all states.
Detroit Public Schools’ 65 percent graduation rate was well below the nation’s top rate in cities - 79 percent in Houston, Columbus, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa - but above 62 percent in Milwaukee and 60 percent in Indianapolis. The Detroit district, which includes 74.9 percent low-income students, mirrored the 64 percent graduation rate for low-income students across Michigan.
“Significant progress has been made in recent years,” DPS spokesperson Michelle Zdrodowski said in an email. The rate increased five percentage points in 2012 and was the highest since 2006, she said. The rate remained around 65 percent in 2013.
She said it is “committed to ensuring that all of its students leave school college and career ready.”
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said a recent $65 million boost in early education funding will help increase the state’s graduation rate by better engaging students from the start. Gov. Rick Snyder has pledged to make Michigan a “no-wait state” for preschool enrollment and requested an additional $65 million for preschool in his fiscal year 2015 budget.
“You don’t deal with graduation rates in high school, you deal with early childhood funding,” Flanagan said. “So we are going to see this change, but (funding) was just introduced. So 13 years from now, I bet you there will be a dramatic change.”
Ronald Gorman, Grand Rapids Public Schools executive director for secondary schools, said he is focused on improving high-school readiness and is working to introduce a summer “bridge program” for students transitioning from eighth to ninth grade. Juniors and seniors typically do not drop out, he said.
“If we can ensure that our freshmen pass all of our core classes, the likelihood of their graduation goes up significantly,” he said. “If our freshmen fail even one core class, the chances that they’ll graduate go down significantly.”
The Grand Rapids district’s graduation rate is close to 80 percent excluding alternative schools, but drops to about 50 percent overall when including alternative schools for students who are behind, Gorman said.
Michigan’s graduation rate declined along with family income, forming one of the widest gaps in the nation. The state is one of nine where 85 to 89 percent of middle- and high-income students graduate high school but the overall graduation rate is below the national average of 80 percent, the study found.
Reducing racial and income-based graduation disparities is a key component of getting the nation’s graduation rate to 90 percent, according to groups that produced the study, including America’s Promise Alliance, a collective of nonprofits, educational institutions and businesses founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Graduation rates are based on U.S. Education Department statistics primarily using a calculation by which the number of graduates in a given is year divided by the number of students who enrolled four years earlier. Adjustments are made for transfer students.
In addition to America’s Promise Alliance, the report was produced by the Everyone Graduates Center at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, the public policy firm Civic Enterprises and the education group Alliance for Excellent Education.