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Posted January 24, 2013

Hitting the Target

The four-year graduation rate for APS hits the target rate of 70 percent set by the district when Winston Brooks became superintendent five years ago. “It’s not enough to have seven out of 10 of our students graduate from high school in four years, but we know we’re moving in the right direction," Brooks said.

When Winston Brooks became superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools nearly five years ago, the district set academic targets that included a 70 percent graduation rate and a narrowing of the achievement gap.

APS has hit those targets.

Four-year graduation rates released this week show that 70.1 percent of APS students graduated in 2012, and seven out of eight demographic groups saw improved rates including Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans.

The official district graduation rate as calculated by the New Mexico Public Education Department saw a slight increase from 63.4 percent in 2011 to 65 percent in 2012. However, the state changed the way it calculates graduation rates last year, now including district-authorized charter schools. When extracting charter schools, for which APS has no academic oversight, the graduation rate for APS is 70.1 percent, an increase of 3.2 percent from 2011.

At the time APS set its target graduation rate at 70 percent, board-authorized charter schools were not included in the district’s calculated rate.

“When we set a 70 percent target graduation rate five years ago, we knew it was achievable, but we also knew it would take some thinking outside the box and a lot of hard work on the part of our students, staff and families,” said Superintendent Brooks. “It’s not enough to have seven out of 10 of our students graduate from high school in four years, but we know we’re moving in the right direction, and we’ll continue our efforts toward an ultimate goal of getting all of our students to graduate.”

Thirteen out of 17 APS high schools improved their graduation rates in 2012, including 9 of the 12 comprehensive high schools and 4 of the 5 alternative high schools. The first graduating class of Atrisco Heritage Academy, the newest APS high school, saw a graduation rate of 76.9 percent.

West Mesa saw the largest percentage increase among the district’s comprehensive high schools at 11.8 percent, climbing to 70 percent. The Early College Academy, one of the APS alternative schools, saw the greatest gain overall, increasing 12.5 percent to 91.7 percent.

Despite the change in the way four-year graduation rates are calculated, several APS high schools have made substantial gains over the past three years. West Mesa’s three-year graduation rate trend has increased by 16.5 percent; Albuquerque High’s is up 9.5 percent; Highland’s is up 7 percent; Rio Grande’s is up 6 percent; ECA’s is up 17.5 percent; and Freedom’s is up 14.3 percent.

In 2011, the state not only began including district-authorized charter schools in each district’s graduation rates, but it also stopped allowing extra time to graduate for students who are pregnant or parenting, incarcerated or who have extra time stipulated in their special education Individualized Education Plan.

The 2012 four-year graduation rates for APS high schools are

  • Albuquerque High, up 3.9% from 2011 to 67.6%
  • Atrisco Heritage Academy, 76.9% (first graduating class)
  • Cibola, up 3.8% to 78.1%
  • Del Norte, up 4.8% to 59.5%
  • Eldorado, down 0.8% to 79.8%
  • Highland, up 5% to 53.9%
  • La Cueva, up 0.4% to 86%
  • Manzano, down 4.1% to 64%
  • Rio Grande, up 3.5% to 55.6%
  • Sandia, up 0.6% to 77.5%
  • Valley, down 2.9% to 66.2%
  • Volcano Vista, up 0.5% to 79.9%
  • West Mesa, up 11.8% to 70%
  • Early College Academy, up 12.5% to 91.7%
  • eCADEMY, up 20.4% to 25.1%
  • Freedom, up 3.9% to 37.4%
  • New Futures, down 6.8% to 27.6%
  • School on Wheels, up 1.6% to 20.9%

In addition to improved graduation rates at most high schools, APS saw substantial improvement in the graduation rates among demographic groups. Caucasians was the only group that saw a slight dip of less than 1 percent in its graduation rate. The largest leaps were among African Americans, whose graduation rate improved by 7.2 percent to 62.7 percent; and English Language Learners, whose rate improved by 6.7 percent to 57.3 percent.

The 2012 graduation rates for demographic groups are

  • Caucasians, down 0.6% to 74.6%
  • African Americans, up 7.2% to 62.7%
  • Hispanics, up 2.1% to 61.6%
  • Asians, up 7% to 84.7%
  • American Indians, up 3.7% to 49.4%
  • Economically Disadvantaged, up 4.9% to 56.5%
  • Students with Disabilities, up 4.3% to 49.2%
  • English Language Learners, up 6.7% to 57.3%

"APS has been deliberate in building our force of highly qualified ELL teachers,” said Brooks. “We pay teachers a stipend to go back and earn their ELL endorsements and we encourage those who are ELL endorsed to go back into the classroom.”

Brooks credits the improved graduation rates and shrinking achievement gap to several other reform efforts as well, such as:

  • An extended high school day that helps students get the credits they need to graduate with their classmates
  • Expansion of online courses
  • Expansion of bilingual and dual-language programs
  • One-on-one counseling and advisement to make sure students are on track to graduate
  • Tutoring and credit-recovery opportunities for students
  • Small Learning Communities
  • Improved technology including interactive white boards in half of all APS classrooms
  • Student-led conferences and better communication with parents and families
  • Designation of career and college readiness counselors at each high school
  • Increased enrollment in Advanced Placement classes
  • AVID, a college-prep elective, at more than two dozen of our schools.
  • A standardized seven-period bell schedule for all high schools.
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