Nye County’s graduation rate has fluctuated over the past few years due to various changes to how the state of Nevada compiles the number.
The rate has gone from 64.9 percent in 2011, to 56.3 percent in 2012, jumping to 70.2 percent in 2013. But a change in how the state found the cohort, or the percent of group, in this case the students, who have a shared a particular event together during a precise time span, was found in the system that represented that hike.
The number has been more stable over the past few years, with the latest number coming in at 69 percent in 2015. That number is the most accurate number that has been reported over the past five years, according to Nye County School District Assistant Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer Dr. Kim Friel.
“We’re at 69.01 percent right now and that’s without including the fifth-year seniors at this point,” Friel said. “The fifth year seniors are the ones who just took proficiency again.”
Friel said that 119 seniors did not receive a diploma for various reasons this past graduating year. Of those, 27 were fifth-year seniors, who have recently retaken the proficiency exam.
“If they pass proficiency, that (graduation) rate will go up,” Friel said. “Those 27 can move us up to 70 percent.”
Another segment of students that negatively affects the graduation rates are those who transfer out of district and are accounted for once they depart.
“Let’s say someone withdraws and they don’t request a transcript and we don’t know where they went, they become a dropout for us automatically,” Friel said. “This happens because a kid could leave us in 9th grade and move to a state where 9th grade is in middle school and they’re going into 10th grade and they don’t need their transcripts.”
Adult education, or those seeking their equivalency diploma after their high school career has concluded, hurt the graduating number as much as anyone, as they have a 4 percent graduation rate.
The graduation rate from 2015 is based on all students who entered their 9th grade year during the 2011-2012 school year anywhere, who attended at least one day in a Nye County School District high school, and who left without being known to have enrolled into another school prior to the end of the 2014-2015 school year. The rate is based on students who earned a standard diploma, an advanced diploma or an adult education diploma.
Students who are freshman in 2016 will be the last graduating class to use the Nevada High School Proficiency test as their pass-fail determiner.
“If they don’t pass it, it doesn’t matter if they passed all four years of high school and everything else, if they can’t pass their proficiency, they’re not going to graduate, they’re not going to get a diploma,” Friel said. “So that’s why the fifth year senior came into play, so they can study for the proficiency and pass it.”
Starting in 2017, students will begin taking tests at the completion of various classes throughout their high school career called the end of course test.
“Those proficiency exams are given at the end of Algebra I, Geometry, English 9 and English 10,” Friel said. “Then there is the ACT test that they will take as juniors and they will combine it all together and that becomes their proficiency. Not this one test that takes all at the end of their schooling.”
The ACT test is now required to be taken by all students during their junior year.
Once the new testing goes into effect, Friel sees a spike in the rate taking place in the district initially.
“For two years it’s going to go sky high,” Friel said of the graduation rates after the new testing guidelines go into place. “This year’s juniors and sophomores, so the class of 2017 and 2018, they’re actually setting the baseline scores for all of those exams for the state.”
Once they set those baseline scores, the class of 2019, which are freshmen this school year, they will be held to those scores and they cannot graduate unless they have those scores plus pass all their classes, Friel explained.
“They look at a lot of things, I couldn’t really tell you how they come up with the baseline, but they will come up with the baseline similar to the high school proficiency,” she said. “For proficiency they decided that 311 was the score that they determined that somebody passed … 311 of 500.”
There are several steps taken within the school district to give students all the assistance they need in order to graduate from high school.
Credit recovery is set up so that once a student fails a class they can enter the program so they can pass that class. There is also tutoring at all the schools. Pathways Innovative Education has test prep in high school proficiency and the graduation equivalency test prep as well. Individual teachers within each high school also provide one-on-one tutoring for interested students.
“If the student really wants the help, we can get them the help,” Friel said.
With all the aid offered to students along with the number increasing in 2015 over 2014, Friel said the district is aiming at the number rising once again next year.
“We’re aiming at getting the number to 70 percent this year without having to wait for the fifth year seniors to finish,” she said. “Then the fifth year seniors will just add to it.”
Contact reporter Mick Akers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter: @mickakers.