- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada’s graduation rate jumped more than 7 percentage points in a single year, driven largely by efforts in the state’s largest district to avoid putting the “dropout” label on students who moved.

Data released Monday by the Nevada Department of Education show 70.7 percent of the class of 2013 graduated from high school, up from 63.1 percent among the class of 2012.

“While this is not enough, it is a firm indication that Nevada is moving in the right direction,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. “I applaud each and every student for their hard work, and I say thank you to the parents and teachers who worked diligently to help move Nevada forward.”

Twelve of the state’s 17 districts saw year-over-year improvement in their graduation rates, with Clark, Nye and Eureka counties and the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority posting near or above 10 percentage point growth. Sandoval said he’s confident that the state will see more gains amid Nevada’s efforts to reduce class sizes, improve services to English-language learners and implement all-day kindergarten programs.

Clark County School District, which enrolls about three-quarters of Nevada’s public school students and heavily influences the state’s overall numbers, saw its graduation rate climb 9.9 percentage points to 71.5 percent.

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said about 60 percent of the gain can be attributed to more efficiently tracking students who successfully transferred out of the district or into an adult education program. Those students previously were listed as non-graduates, weighing down the overall numbers.

About 40 percent of Clark County’s gains come from more students earning their diplomas, according to district officials.

The higher statewide graduation rate is expected to dip again as the state fully implements more rigorous Common Core standards and a different proficiency test system. Data from the 2014-2015 school year will provide the true baseline scores for Nevada going forward, state superintendent Dale Erquiaga said.

The graduation numbers released Monday showed improvement among certain minority groups, with Hispanic students making the biggest gains.

The Hispanic student graduation rate climbed 9.5 percentage points, from almost 54.9 percent in 2012 to 64.4 percent in 2013. Among African-American students, the rate rose from 48.3 percent to 56.7 percent, and the Asian student graduation rate increased from 74.8 percent to 82 percent.

Despite the gains, Hispanic, American Indian and African-American student groups have a lower graduation rate than other subgroups. English language learners fare especially poorly - only 24.4 percent of those students graduated.

“The disparity in achievement between different groups of students is unacceptable,” Erquiaga said in a statement. “Even as we celebrate the tremendous gains this year, the department is renewing its focus on the achievement gap that keeps so many students from being ready for success.”

The numbers were calculated using a formula known as the adjusted cohort graduation rate, which is now used by all 50 states. Since Nevada implemented the formula in 2011, the rate of students graduating in the state has risen by 8.7 percentage points.

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