- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming’s high school graduation rate increased for a second consecutive year, although Native American students in the state continue to struggle to achieve a high school diploma.

The four-year graduation rate increased slightly to 79.4 percent in the 2014-15 school year, up from 78.6 percent in 2013-14, according to the state Department of Education.

State schools Superintendent Jillian Balow said Monday that the graduation rate is an important indicator of student success under Wyoming’s recent efforts to improve the academic achievement of its K-12 students.

The increase perhaps may not be statistically significant and not the 100 percent rate that is preferred, but the improvement is welcome, Balow said. “Any jump in the number is significant because it’s real students that are attached to these numbers who have more opportunities in life as a result of getting a high school diploma,” she said.

Balow said the state Department of Education, which she administers, will work to help districts and schools with low graduation rates to raise them.

Of the 48 school districts in the state, Platte 2, Washakie 2 and Park 16 had 100 percent while five districts fell below 54 percent.

Fremont 21 had just a 22.73 percent graduation rate, while Fremont 38 had just 28 percent. Both districts are based on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“Our Native American student population is graduating at far lower levels than other subgroups,” said Brent Young, the agency’s chief policy officer.

Statewide, the graduation rate among Native American students is 45.33 percent, by far the lowest among all ethnic and racial groups that are tracked.

Balow and Young said there will be more focus on helping schools and particular groups of students with the lowest graduation rates.

Balow noted that the Legislature this past winter approved a pilot program to help alternative schools be more “flexible with the outcome for students without lowering the bar.”

Despite the work that needs to be done on raising graduation rates, Balow maintains that a 100 rate statewide is achievable.

“We do have high schools in the state, sizeable high schools, not high schools with five or six kids graduating, that have 100 percent graduation rates,” she said. “So we know it can be done, and we know that some of those kids that are graduating are at-risk students who see the value of education, see the value of a diploma in kind of setting the stage for those next steps. So we want all kids to see that value.”

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