DES MOINES – Iowa’s high school graduation rate has increased for the fifth year in a row while dropout rates edged up for the first time since the 2009-10 school year, according to figures released today by the Iowa Department of Education.
State data show 91.3 percent of students in Iowa’s Class of 2016 graduated within four years, up from 90.8 percent for the Class of 2015. Iowa’s annual dropout rate was 2.8 percent in the 2015-16 school year, up from 2.5 percent in the 2014-15 school year. The state’s 2015-16 dropout rate represents 4,154 students in grades 9-12.
Graduation rates and dropout rates can increase simultaneously because they measure different groups of students. The four-year graduation rate follows one class of students over time – for example, students in the Class of 2016 starting with their enrollment as first-time freshmen during the 2012-13 school year – while annual dropout rates represent the number of students who dropped out of grades 9-12 during one school year.
“Graduation is a critical milestone in every student’s path to success,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said. “While we’re proud that Iowa continues to lead nationally in high school graduation rates, we have work to do. We must ensure all Iowa high school students not only graduate, but do so with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in postsecondary education and training.”
Four-year graduation rate
Iowa’s four-year graduation rate climbed among African American students, Hispanic students and white students, but decreased among Asian students, Native American students, students in special education, students from low-income backgrounds, and students whose native language is not English.
Overall, Iowa’s four-year high school graduation rate has climbed 3 percentage points over a six-year period. Iowa also has seen a nearly 2 percentage-point increase in the graduation rate for students who took an extra year to finish high school.
Iowa graduation rates are calculated with a formula established by the U.S. Department of Education. Unique student identification numbers allow school districts to account for all ninth-grade students as they move through high school. At the state level, the method helps determine when a student graduates, even if the student has switched districts in Iowa during high school.
Five-year graduation rate
The five-year graduation rate reflects students who were part of a graduating class but took an extra year to complete high school. They include students with disabilities and students in at-risk programs. Iowa’s five-year graduation rate for students who were part of the Class of 2015 was 93.3 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent from the 93.1 percent rate for the Class of 2014.
Annual dropout rate
Iowa’s annual dropout rate reflects the percentage of students in grades 9-12 who drop out of school during a single year.
The statewide dropout rate increased among all but two student subgroups – multi-racial and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander – in the 2015-16 school year from the year before.
“A high school diploma is not enough to position most workers for financial security, so it’s discouraging to see a slight increase in the state’s dropout rate,” Wise said. “At the same time, it’s important to put this one-year increase into perspective, and the long-term trend shows Iowa’s dropout rate is declining.”
For more information on Iowa’s graduation rates and dropout rates, including rates by school district and by student subgroup, visit the Iowa Department of Education’s website.