Commentary on Madison’s recent black high school graduation rate changes

Karen Rivedal:

DPI’s data showed 73 percent of African-American students graduated on track from Madison public high schools last spring, compared with 59 percent who did the same in spring 2016. That’s by far the highest single rate and year-over-year jump posted for black students over the past five years in the district, with rates of 54 percent, 56 percent and 59 percent from 2012-13 to 2014-15.

But district officials were unable to say, for instance, where last year’s increase was more heavily weighted — in the district’s main high schools or in the alternative programs — or whether the rise was distributed proportionately across programs and schools.

“We still need to dig into that,” said Andrew Statz, the district’s chief accountability officer, noting the district typically gets graduation numbers from the state later in the year and releases its own detailed report in May.

Cheatham also pointed to the district’s six-year graduation rate for black students, which has risen more steadily over the past five years, from 72 percent in 2012-13 to 77 percent in 2016-17, with a high of 79 percent in 2015-16.

“We have been on a positive trajectory when it comes to graduation rates for the last several years,” she said. “The most positive part of our trajectory has been in the six-year rate, and because of that I wasn’t surprised to see the four-year rate is starting to see that similar uptick.