In 2012, the four-year high school graduation rate in Hennepin County, Minnesota, was 68%. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Education further compiled by Hennepin County’s graduation initiative A-GRAD, when schools were broken out into traditional schools (mainstream, public high schools) and non-traditional schools (alternative learning centers/programs and charter high schools), the difference between the modified rates was staggering. The four-year graduation rate for traditional schools was 83% while the rate for non-traditional schools was significantly less at 23%. The factors surrounding which students graduate and which do not are numerous. The purpose of this study is to explore both traditional and non-traditional school policies, practices, and climates to uncover what role they may have in supporting or hindering students to graduate in their four-year cohorts, especially as it relates to “dropout” and “unknown” rates. Through a series of in-person interviews with school administrators from across the county, it became clear that the difference between the two rates is not a problem in and of itself. Administrators from the alternative learning centers and several charter schools voiced concern over the weight given to the four-year rate due to the demographic characteristics of their student populations in terms of age, special education status, and past credits earned at arrival, among others. The overarching themes drawn from the interviews suggest that the four-year graduation rate is neither an adequate nor equitable way to evaluate school success across all settings.
Professional paper for the fulfillment of the Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Affairs
Burke, Anna; Jorenby, Kristin; Maki, Todd.
Hennepin County High School Graduation Rates: The View From The Ground.
Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
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