Who Is In Charge

Slight bad and good news in grad, dropout rates

Colorado’s high school graduation rate declined to 73.9 percent in 2008 from 75 percent the previous year, the state Department of Education reported Thursday.

But, the percentage of students in grades 7-12 who dropped out in the 2007-08 school year declined to 3.8 percent, compared to 4.4 percent the year before.

“While we are disappointed that the progress made last year in terms of the graduation rate has not continued, we are pleased to see a significant decrease in the dropout rate,” said education Commissioner Dwight Jones.

The statewide graduation rate rose from just below 80 percent in 1997 to above 80 percent in 2003 before starting to decline. However, the method for calculating the rate was changed for the 2006-07 school year. (Click here for more detailed information on the CDE website.)

The graduation rate does not include students who’ve received a GED or other designations of high school completion. Colorado’s so-called “completer rate,” which includes such students, was 78.8 percent in 2008, down 1 percent from the prior.

The state’s dropout rated slowly declined from about 3.5 percent in 1996-97 to about 2.5 percent in 2002-03. It then rose to about 4.5 percent in 2005-06 before starting to fall slightly. (Click here for more detailed historic information.)

Nationally, the graduation rate has fluctuated in a relatively narrow range for almost three decades. It was 74.4 percent in 1976-77 and 74.7 percent in 2004-05, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The national status dropout rate in 2006 was 9.3 percent, according to the center. That figure is the percentage of 16-24 year olds who aren’t in high school or don’t have a high school credential, a different statistic than what Colorado reports.

As in past years, there are significant gaps in graduation rates by gender and ethnic groups.

77.4 percent of girls graduated in 2008, 70.7 percent of boys. Both figures were down from the prior year.

Here are the 2008 figures by ethnic group:

  • Hispanic, 55.6 percent
    Native American, 57.5 percent
    Black, 64.1 percent
    White, 81.6 percent
    Asian, 82.8 percent

All groups were down from 2007.

The state has made modest attempts in the last two years to address graduation and dropout rates. A 2007 law created a grant program so that some districts could hire more counselors, and CDE has been operating a pilot Close the Achievement Gap program in six districts.

The 2009 legislative passed House Bill 09-1243, which creates an office of dropout prevention in the department. The office is intended to assist districts in dropout prevention efforts. However, because of Colorado’s fiscal crisis, no state money is provided for the program, which will have to rely on grants to get started.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”