Helmut Schmidt, Published March 22 2011
On-time graduation rates lag in metro schoolsRoughly one in four high school students in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area isn’t graduating on time by one national standard, members of the Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead school boards learned Monday.
It’s a sobering statistic they, and United Way of Cass-Clay officials, hope to improve.
The groups met at Moorhead’s Bluestem Center for the Arts to track progress toward setting a common four-year metro graduation standard.
They hope to tie their efforts into a national United Way goal of raising the U.S. on-time graduation rate from the 74 percent posted in 2006 to 87 percent in 2018.
Using the National Governors Association method to define on-time graduation, West Fargo would have an estimated on-time rate of 72 percent and Moorhead about 73 percent, said Tom Gravel, principal of West Fargo Community High School.
Fargo Schools Superintendent Rick Buresh estimated his district had an 85 percent graduation rate, but Gravel, who is researching on-time graduation issues, said unless Fargo’s results are exceptional, it may be graduating 75 to 78 percent of its students.
“This (the effort) has to be communitywide. We have to address and reach and focus on kids that need extra help,” Gravel said.
Gravel’s NGA graduation standard estimates are well below – but likely more accurate – than Annual Yearly Progress graduation rates calculated for the districts under the federal No Child Left Behind law, Moorhead Superintendent Lynne Kovash said.
In the 2009-10 school year, Fargo schools had a goal of 89 percent on-time graduation and reached 85.09 percent. Moorhead had a goal of 89.4 percent and reached 95.43 percent. And West Fargo had a goal of 89 percent and reached 80.76 percent, Kovash said.
“We have a lot of work to do,” she said.
A unified metro graduation goal will lead to identifying what areas need to be addressed and programs funded, said Thomas Hill, community impact director for United Way.
The current focus is on preparing children for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten so they are ready to learn, as well as mentoring programs, Hill said.
Schools have each student for six hours a day. After that, they are with family or in the greater community. Support for education has to come from those areas as well, West Fargo Superintendent David Flowers said.
“We can’t do it alone,” he said.
Poverty also has a debilitating effect and an almost direct correlation to a student’s prospects of graduating on time, Buresh said.
A working group on the issue will develop a common on-time graduation standard and how to measure it in the next few months, Flowers said. That work will then go to each of the boards for discussion.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583