Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

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Superintendent suggests ways to increase graduation rates

CARSON CITY – The state superintendent of public instruction recommended today that the Legislature look at putting more money into high schools with low graduation rates and a study of how schools with high graduation rates do it.

Keith Rheault told the Assembly Education Committee that Nevada schools had a graduation rate of 67.4 percent in 2007. That contrasts with the Quality Counts Report that put Nevada’s graduation rate at 45.4 percent, near the bottom in comparison with other states.

Rheault said increasing the number of career and technical education courses is an example of one program that boosts graduation rates.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, said schools must identify those students in eighth and ninth grades that are falling behind and give them help. If there is no intervention, they will never graduate, she said.

Rheault told the committee that the Quality Counts report “over inflates” the figures from some states. There are five to six ways to compute graduation rates but the federal government is going to require a uniform report. And Rheault said that will move Nevada’s percentage of graduates up – possibility to the middle of the states.

Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Las Vegas, said Nevada, under the new formula, may hit the 80 percent graduation rate.

The report presented to the committee showed that 69.7 percent of the Nevada females graduated compared to 65 percent of the males. Clark County’s graduation rate was 63 percent, the second lowest in the state, only ahead of the 60.4 percent in Nye County.

One of the problems in calculating high school graduation rates is the transient population. For instance Western High School in Las Vegas has a 44 percent transient student population that “comes and goes.” And many of the schools with the higher transient population end up with a lower graduation rate.

Parnell said many of the suggestions made by Rheault would be considered for a bill by the committee.

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