Class of 2014 Set New High Mark for DMPS Graduation Rate

graduationrate2014The Iowa Department of Education today released data on the four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2014 and the five-year graduation rate for the Class of 2013, showing new highs for Des Moines Public Schools.

The Class of 2014 at DMPS had a district-wide graduation rate of 81.68%, an increase of 2.52% over the previous year and the highest level since Iowa began using its current graduation rate formula in 2009. The four-year graduation rate at the district’s five comprehensive high schools (East, Hoover, Lincoln, North and Roosevelt) alone was 86.58%, up from 82.79% the previous year.

Statewide figures show an overall increase in the percentage of Iowa high school students who completed high school in four years, with a statewide graduation rate of 90.54% for 2014 compared to 89.68% for 2013.

Des Moines Public Schools also saw an increase in the district-wide five-year graduation rate to 84.04% for the Class of 2013, up from 82.89% for the Class of 2012 and also the highest since 2009. The five-year graduation rate at the district’s five comprehensive high schools alone was 86.66%.

Statewide figures also show an overall increase in the percentage of Iowa high school students who completed high school in five years, with a five-year rate of 92.28% for the Class of 2013 compared to 92.15% percent for the Class of 2012.

The following chart shows the graduation rate trend at DMPS over the past six years:


Download a copy of the 2014 Graduation Report with further details on data for DMPS.

This is the sixth year that Iowa graduation rates have been calculated using a formula established by the U.S. Department of Education. Unique student identification numbers are assigned to ninth-grade students, allowing school districts to account for all students as they move through high school. At the state level, the method helps determine when a student graduates, even if the student has moved to a different district in Iowa during high school.

The graduation rate for Des Moines Public Schools has increased 9 percentage points since the State of Iowa first started using this formula for the Class of 2009.

“This is very exciting news about our school district and the work we are doing, but it is also a challenge,” said Superintendent Tom Ahart. “On the one hand, this is a great testimony to the work being done by our teachers, students and principals, and that our efforts are making a difference. On the other hand, it is a challenge to all of us at the school district and in the community to support education so more and more students can continue to grow and succeed.”

DMPS has begun several initiatives in recent years that have contributed to raising the graduation rate, including:

  • In the fall of 2009, DMPS implemented the Early Indicator System (EIS) to help identify students who may be at risk of dropping out of school. The EIS tracks attendance, class performance, and discipline/behavior issues at the elementary and secondary levels. In addition, each high school now has an Academic Support Lab to help serve students who are identified through the EIS as at-risk for dropping out of school.
  • Also in 2009, DMPS began the Graduation Walk, a grassroots effort done in partnership with United Way of Central Iowa to raise community awareness about the importance of completing a high school diploma as well as to reach out to recent dropouts and students falling behind to let make them aware of support that is available. Thanks to support from hundreds of volunteers, the program has knocked on thousands of doors over the past six years and was recently presented with the 2015 Magna Award by the National School Boards Association.
  • Over the past few years DMPS has greatly expanded access to Advanced Placement courses, with new AP courses at Central Academy and a more complete AP curriculum offered at all five high schools. During that time AP enrollment has quadrupled and participation in AP exams has doubled, raising expectations for academic success throughout all high schools.
  • Significant changes are underway at Scavo High School. First, the school was relocated at the beginning of the year to a newly renovated location at Central Campus, creating a better learning environment as well as providing Scavo students with easier access to the variety of programs offered at Central Campus. Second, Scavo is in the midst of becoming a full-service high school, providing students with on-site access to a variety of services, from a food bank to medical care, which might otherwise be barriers to attending school. Scavo’s graduation rate for the Class of 2014 was 47.01%, compared to 39.3% for the Class of 2013, and is at its highest mark since 2009.
  • Senior Summer School was developed as a 9-week intensive credit recovery program targeting 12th graders who do not graduate by the end of the regular school year due to credit deficiencies. Programming consists of both academic and social support for students, with the goal of increasing the number of students who meet credit requirements for graduation by the end of the program. A graduation ceremony for students who successfully complete the program is held in August.
  • DMPS has significantly increased afterschool programming and extracurricular activities at all middle schools, and is beginning similar efforts at the elementary school level, in order to help students become more connected and engaged with their schools.
  • Last year DMPS completed the realignment of our school feeder systems, redrawing attendance boundaries to help students build peer groups that they can grow more connected with as they progress through the grade levels, to better develop opportunities for extra-curricular success at the middle and high school levels, and to create a greater sense of community around the school feeder patterns.
  • Two years ago DMPS began work with the Gallup Organization and adopted the Gallup Student Poll, providing data on our students’ levels of hope, well-being and engagement and helping the district in the development of more purposeful, student-focused school improvement plans.

The data released today showed a slight increase in the dropout rate for DMPS, which was 4.33% for the 2013-14 school year compared to 4.16% in 2012-13. However, the dropout rate is at its second-lowest level in the past six years.