IPS reports jump in share of freshmen who are on track to graduate

Rows of graduating students wearing blue, yellow, white and green graduation gowns and caps listen to a speaker.

Almost three-quarters of freshmen attending Indianapolis Public Schools’ four district-run high schools are on track to graduate, according to data presented Tuesday.

That rate —  which represents the share of 9th graders who’ve earned one-quarter of the credits they need to graduate with no more than one failed course — is a double-digit increase over last year, and it bucks national trends that show a decline in the number of freshmen who are expected to graduate.

Across all four district high schools, 71% of freshmen were on track to graduate at the end of the 2021-22 school year, compared to 59% at the end of 2020-2021. 

Some of the biggest gains happened at Crispus Attucks and George Washington high schools, which each reported an increase of 20 percentage points for on-track rates compared to last year. Around 77% of Crispus Attucks freshmen and 75% of George Washington freshmen were on track to graduate in the most recent data. 

The district credited a series of new policies for the gains, including new teams of freshmen and sophomore teachers who could intervene when students were struggling, extra in-class and out-of-class support, as well as the district’s new grading policy implemented in 2020, which sets the minimum grade a student can receive at 50%.  

Warren Morgan, the district’s chief academics officer, said the district calculates an on-track rate in order to get a sense of students’ ability to graduate before they reach the critical final years of high school. 

This year’s statewide graduation rates will be available in the fall. In 2021, IPS had a 76% graduation rate.

“We’re providing multiple opportunities for students to succeed,” Morgan said in a call with reporters Tuesday. 

In a district blog post published July 11, officials put the freshman on-track rates at 84%. However, the district said that rate was for rate after the first semester of the 2021-22 school year only, not the entire year. The 71% figure released Tuesday covers the entire 2021-22 school year. 

The on-track data was one of several district academic updates that officials will present to the Board of Commissioners at a Thursday meeting. 

The officials’ presentation shows the district has cut its failure rate in half in the last year, with around 10% of students failing a course at the end of the fourth marking period in 2022. 

The district also reported erasing its pandemic drops in the English/language arts portion of the state test — known as ILEARN — in 2022. 

Around 22% of students were proficient in English/language arts in 2022 — the same rate as in 2019 — compared to 19% in 2021. 

Math proficiency at the district rose slightly but remained below pre-pandemic rates, at 20%. 

However, the growth has been uneven among student groups. White students’ scores’ have recovered more quickly than scores for Black students or Hispanic students, Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said.

“We know we started at a place where our students were not demonstrating the achievement we wanted them to,” Johnson said. “Overall we are really excited that IPS has made forward motion.”

Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at aappleton@chalkbeat.org.

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