Class of 2015 graduation rate reaches 82.6 percent

12/10/2015 | TACOMA, Washington

TACOMA, Wash.—Tacoma’s graduation rate for the Class of 2015 reached 82.6 percent – the highest since the state began officially tracking the statistic in 2003 and the fifth straight year of gains, according to data submitted to the state by Tacoma Public Schools.

 
“Part of me wants to immediately reiterate that we have not yet reached our goal,” said School Board President Scott Heinze. “But the best part of me wants to commend the elbow grease applied by educators throughout Tacoma whose relentless dedication to their students has paid off so profoundly in just a handful of years.”

 
Heize presided over the official unveiling of the 2015 graduation rate at a short celebratory ceremony today at Gray Middle School where students from the Class of 2020 (current 8th graders) participated in front of district staff and community leaders.

 
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​Students from Mt. Tahoma High School celebrate at the 2015
graduation ceremony. Tacoma set a graduation rate of 82.6 percent.
After the release of the 2012 graduation data, the School Board set a bold goal – graduate 85 percent of Tacoma students by 2020. How bold? Consider that in 2007 a national researcher labeled all Tacoma’s comprehensive high schools as “dropout factories” in a news story published across the country. And as recently as 2010, Tacoma high schools graduated 55 percent of students. 

 
“What gets measured gets done,” said Superintendent Carla Santorno. “When we talk graduation rates, we talk about a lot of numbers. But what really hits me the most—what really moves me—is that every decimal point we improve means another student whose life we have reset on a new trajectory of success, not just in school but in life.”

 
Santorno praised the leadership of high school principals, the hard work of teachers and guidance counselors and the support of caring staff members at all grade levels throughout the district for looking out for “every student, every day.”
The final 2015 graduation report, sent by the district to the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI), included the following notable achievements:

 
Tacoma’s 82.6 percent rate for 2015 exceed the 2014 statewide average graduation rate of 77.2 percent by a record 5.4 percent.
The 2015 districtwide dropout rate continued a multi-year downward trend by falling to 10.5 from 14.3 percent in 2014.
Students considered low-income because they qualify for free or reduced-price school meals saw their graduation rate increase from 70.9 percent in 2014 to 76.8 percent in 2015.
The graduation rate for special education students rose again from 45.9 percent in 2013 to 56.3 percent in 2014 to 59.7 percent in 2015.
The extended, 5-year graduation rate for the Class of 2014 reached 82.5 percent.

 
Closing “graduation gaps” remains a strategic priority set by the School Board—and the 2015 graduation statistics provided a second-straight year of notable gains.

 
Graduation rates went up over 2014 for nearly every racial demographic:
Black (+6.2%)
Hispanic (+13.1%)
Native American (+3.2)
Pacific Islander (+11.4%)
Multi-ethnic (+25.2%)
White (+2%).

 
Only the Asian demographic group—which recorded the highest graduation rate in 2014—dipped slightly.

 
Yet for the first-time ever, Hispanic, Black, Pacific Islander and Multi-ethnic students graduated at 80 percent or better.

 
And, profoundly, the graduation gap between White students and Hispanic and Black students narrowed to less than four percentage points. Even among Tacoma’s poorest students—the roughly 60 percent who receive free or reduced-price lunch—the graduation rate has jumped from just 61.2 percent in 2013 to 70.9 percent in 2014 and, in 2015, 76.8 percent.

 
“For all the people in Tacoma and across the country who say students of poverty and students of color in urban school districts will never make it, I will tell you that in Tacoma the numbers prove otherwise,” Board President Heinze said. “We have virtually eliminated some persistent, historic graduation gaps.

 
“When our School Board members made equity a key element of our district strategic plan, Superintendent Santorno and her team and principals and teachers across the district have embraced it,” Heinze said. “Can we do more? Sure we can, and we will.”
A snapshot of the three-year demographic trend – 2013 to 2015 – shows graduation rates have gone up for every group:

 

Three-year Graduation Trends

Demographic Group

2013

2014

2015

Difference

Asian

74.7%

86.2%

82.6%

+7.9

Black

67.4%

74.7%

80.9%

+13.5

Hispanic

57.2%

67.3%

80.4%

+23.2

Native American

58.1%

68.2%

71.4%

+13.3

Pacific Islander

53.6%

68.6%

80.0%

+26.4

Multi-ethnic

34.5%

62.5%

87.7%

+53.2

White

75.8%

82.2%

84.2%

+8.4

“Our Board of Directors has led us a long, long way,” Santorno said. “Not only did they set the goal, they followed it up with a series of insightful policies to increase the rigor of high school coursework; eliminate fees for SAT, PSAT and Advanced Placement tests; and established a new process for us to create more innovative schools.

 
“OSPI already has recognized Tacoma Public Schools as the most innovative district in Washington for our portfolio of options for students. We are now seeing the results that come along with those innovations,” Santorno said.
 

Three-year Graduation Trends

Graduation Rate By High School

2013

2014

2015

1-year Difference

3-year Trend

Foss

64.9%

74.1%

69.6%

-4.5

+4.7

Lincoln

65.7%

79.0%

81.9%

+2.9

+16.2

Mount Tahoma

62.8%

67.6%

74.2%

+6.6

+11.4

Oakland

7.7%

14.8%

56.1%

+41.3

+48.4

Science and Math Institute

97.0%

97.3%

100%

+2.7

+3.0

Stadium

79.0%

85.4%

90.6%

+5.2

+11.6

School of the Arts

91.4%

97.5%

97.1%

-0.4

+5.7

Wilson

84.7%

91.1%

93.8%

+2.7

+9.1

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