During the State of Education address in 2016, Superintendent Traci Davis announced the District’s “90 by 20” goal: a 90 percent graduation rate by the year 2020. “To achieve this 90 percent graduation rate, we will continue to focus on core instruction, inclusive practices, climate and engagement, and a Multi-Tiered System of Supports,” said Superintendent Davis. “It is a worthy goal, and working together with our outstanding staff, trustees, families, community partners, and students, I am confident it is within reach. Just as we encourage our students to overcome the obstacles that lie in their paths in order to achieve success, we, too, are committed to working through the challenges that lie ahead. Our 64,000 students are depending on us, and we are up to the task.”
One of the most important indicators of a quality K-12 educational system is the on-time graduation rate of all students. In order to achieve our “90 by 20” goal and continue to give each of our students every opportunity for success, we must shine a light on our data, and both celebrate and confront the strengths and challenges the data presents. This allows us to support every student, every day, along their pathway to graduation.
Why is graduation so important to us? Graduation represents the culmination of our time with, and investment in, our students. This is important to their lives and to our community. The graduation milestone provides a launching pad for many opportunities, including college, other postsecondary education, highly skilled careers, and military service. The economic and societal benefits of graduation have been shown by many economists (Alliance for Excellent Education; Bureau of Labor Statistics; The New York Times), who estimate that the net benefit to taxpayers ranges from $77K to $127K per graduate. In WCSD, this would conservatively translate to a benefit of more than $36M over the past 4 years. In addition, high school graduates earn at least 50% more than high school dropouts in lifetime income, and unemployment rates are double for high school dropouts vs graduates.
In 2016, Washoe County School District (WCSD) achieved a new high for graduation rate, with 77 percent of students graduating on-time with their four-year cohort. This represents an increase of 11 percentage points since 2012!
The line graph presented here displays the four-year cohort graduation rate in WCSD and in the state of Nevada from 2010 through 2016. The figure shows an improvement in WCSD from 62% in 2010 to 77% in 2016. Importantly, WCSD has posted record highs each year for each of the past four graduating classes. This shows that the hard work of our students, parents, and educators is paying off more and more each year, as more students cross the graduation stage on their way to new opportunities.
Both systems have progressed substantially over time, but still have much room to improve in order to fulfill the promise of a New Nevada to meet the economic and workforce needs of this century. In fact, we must increase our graduation rates even more to achieve 90% by 2020.
In order to fulfill our vision of Every Child, By Name and Face, to Graduation, we must ensure that each child, no matter his or her background, is supported along their pathway. This means eliminating achievement gaps.
The chart above displays graduation rates for each of our racial and ethnic populations. Since 2012, the achievement gap has narrowed among each population, with substantial gains seen in our American Indian, Hispanic, and African American student populations. Stark gaps still remain, however, and our mission is to continue to improve and personalize supports for these students in our system.
The chart above displays graduation rates for each special program student population. Again, while each population has seen progress in recent years, we have a significant amount of work to do in order to ensure each student, regardless of background, is given the opportunity and necessary support to reach the graduation stage. Recent success in improving graduation rates among students in poverty, and narrowing that achievement gap, provides evidence that targeted supports, including wraparound supports like family engagement, home visits, tutoring, intersession programs for credit recovery, and night courses, are paying off, resulting in more and more of our students walk across the graduation stage.
WCSD offers a standard high school diploma as well as advanced and honors options. It rests with the student, parents and educators to determine which diploma program is best suited for each student. Click here to view WCSD High School Diploma Requirements!
As the nation and WCSD confront low levels of college readiness among graduates (remediation rate report), it is important that rigor is not sacrificed in striving for more graduates. This is why honors and advanced diplomas are important metrics used to determine our success and guide our system of supports. The chart above displays the proportion of advanced/honors diplomas awarded each year, compared to the proportion of standard diplomas. Importantly, there are now more students graduating with an honors/advanced diploma than with a standard diploma. This is a point of celebration and a testament to the hard work, determination, and foresight of WCSD students and educators.
There are challenges for WCSD in this area, however, as achievement gaps are revealed when student populations are disaggregated. For example, although the overall population attained more honors/advanced diplomas than standard, this was not the case for several of our race/ethnic populations. As we progress toward “90 by 20,” we must also continue to make progress in advanced/honors diplomas, and the opportunities they afford, for ALL students.
Examining graduation data cannot stop at the system, or district-level. The overall graduation rate is comprised of the success of each of our schools, where our students progress each day along their educational journey. The chart above displays the graduation rate for each WCSD high school. The Class of 2016 marked the first time any WCSD comprehensive high school eclipsed a 90% graduation rate– this was achieved by three comprehensive high schools (Damonte Ranch HS, McQueen HS, and Reno HS). Additionally, three of the district’s specialty high schools were at or above the 90% rate (Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology, North Star Online School, and TMCC HS). This is an inspirational achievement, and one that many more WCSD high schools are heading toward.
Just as our district rate is comprised of each high school’s success, each high school’s rate is comprised of each student population and, ultimately, each child. Clicking on any school, or its respective column, on the chart above will transition into a display of graduation rates by student population at that school. Exploring the data in this way allows the viewer to examine achievement gap successes and challenges at each school. Examining variability in the system facilitates disciplined discussions and sharing of effective practices. This allows each school to best meet challenges in their own context, and affords the district to provide evidence-based supports.
Although we have provided an overview of the data presented here, we hope you will take time to interact with it, and examine it yourself. The site is presented so our community can see our successes and challenges in terms of student achievement. Moreover, it is meant to include our community in the conversation regarding our progress. Exploring the data will reveal many strong points, as well as some glaring areas for improvement. If you, as the reader and a stakeholder in our community, have any questions or suggestions, please use the “Contact WCSD” link to get in touch with us.