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Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seattle's graduation rate dips as state's rate rises

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle's on-time high-school graduation rate fell to about 58 percent in 2005, a slight drop at a time when statewide rates continued to rise, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) announced Monday.

Seattle's drop — from nearly 63 percent in 2004 — followed a big increase the year before. All told, Seattle Public Schools' four-year graduation rate actually has risen 8 percentage points since 2003.

Statewide, the rate of on-time graduation — students who graduate in four years — rose from 70 percent in 2004 to 74 percent in 2005.

The rise is partly attributed to state standards like the Washington Assessment of Student Learning and national standards like the No Child Left Behind law, said OSPI spokeswoman Kim Schmanke. Districts are paying more attention to students who aren't necessarily college-bound, she said, because their success gets factored into the statewide standards.

"There's just a different social, moral imperative about graduating kids today," Schmanke said. "Today you can't have a family-wage job without a high-school diploma."

At least part of the improvement in graduation rates is because of better record keeping, she added. Graduation and dropout rates are tough to pin down because it's hard to know what students do after they leave high school. Some who are counted as dropouts may have transferred to another school or gotten a high-school-equivalency degree.

For the past two years, the state tracked down students whose status was unknown to try to improve the accuracy of its dropout and graduation statistics, Schmanke said.

Washington school-district graduation rates for 2005


State: 74 percent

Seattle: 57.6 percent

Bainbridge Island: 98.3 percent

Bellevue: 86 percent

Edmonds: 63.5 percent

Everett: 62.6 percent

Federal Way: 74.7 percent

Highline: 65.3 percent

Kent: 73 percent

Lake Washington: 90.2 percent

Shoreline: 83.9 percent

Spokane: 64.1 percent

Tacoma: 67.5 percent

Source: Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

In Seattle, the highest on-time graduation rate is at Garfield High School, where about 85 percent of students graduate within four years, according to the state data. The lowest rate at a traditional high school was at Cleveland High, where about 43 percent graduated on time.

On the Eastside, the Northshore School District saw on-time graduation rates increase by 10.7 percentage points from 2004 — the largest jump of any district in the area. Spokeswoman Susan Stoltzfous said the district has been tracking students more carefully and has implemented high-school programs to identify and find help for struggling or at-risk students.

In Snohomish County, the Edmonds School District held steady with about 63 percent of students graduating on time, while Everett's rate rose by nearly 5 percentage points, to 62.6 percent, over the previous year. Everett has since hired on-time graduation counselors at its three high schools to help students falling short of graduation requirements make up missing credits or return to high school for a fifth year.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com. Seattle Times staff reporters Lynn Thompson and Rachel Tuinstra contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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