Washington County high school graduation rate rises, Iron County rates plummet

Washington County School District office in St. George, Utah, on July 25, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utah public high schools have collectively seen continuous, increased graduation rates for the seventh consecutive year.

The Utah State Board of Education announced Monday that 87.4% of students who entered schools as freshmen four years earlier graduated in May 2019.

Between 2018 and 2019, the state’s overall graduation rate rose by .4 percentage points, with a total 3 percentage point increase over the past five years. Of the 365 public high schools in Utah, 14 reported a graduation rate of 100%.

The Utah 2019 Graduation Reports also breaks down rates for specific local educational agencies, including school districts and individual high schools, from 2017-2019. The Iron County School District had four high schools appear in the nearly 20-page report.

Overall, Iron County saw 641 students graduate in 2019 and achieved a graduation rate of 84.4%, a 5.3 percentage point decline from 2018 and 2.4 percentage point loss since 2017. Each of the four schools in Iron County saw a decrease in their graduation rates.

Parowan High School lead the district with a higher graduation rate, resting at just over 98% with a total of 52 students in their 2019 graduating cohort. Cedar City High School and Canyon View High School were neck and neck for the largest graduating cohort, with 250 and 241 students, respectively.

The Southwest Educational Academy had a graduation cohort of 98 students but rounded out the Iron County District with a graduation rate of just under 45%.

The report also included 11 high schools within the Washington County School District, with the district graduating 2,251 students in 2019. Sitting at an overall graduation rate of over 90%, Washington County has seen a .8 percentage point increase since 2018 and a 1.6 percentage point hike since 2017. Of the 11 schools listed, however, only five have seen an increase in their graduation rates since 2017.

Washington County School District Communications Director Steven Dunham told St. George News the increase wasn’t the result of anything groundbreaking, but rather an administrative shift that pushed the district over the 90% mark.

The biggest contributing factor was cleaning up our data,” he said.

In the past, students who were enrolled in the district but transferred out were counted against the graduation rate unless their transfer was recorded. Dunham said administrators are going through and finding students who withdraw or transfer from the district, recording where they are enrolling in next, and clearing them out of the database.

To a lesser degree, the district is also working to help students complete recovery packets for lost credits, he said. When students fail a class and are unable to be awarded the credits associated with the course, they are given the opportunity to complete the packet as a way to recover those credits.

“We’ve done this for a while, so it’s not like this is a new, innovative thing,” Dunham said. “It’s made a difference but not a big difference.”

Utah Online 7-12 had the highest graduation rate in the county, achieving a 96.5% rate, with Dixie High School following close behind at over 95%. Desert Hills High School held the third highest graduation rate of 94.4% with the largest graduating cohort at 501 students.

Millcreek High saw the largest increase in graduation rates, jumping from 55.6% in 2018 to 59.5% in 2019, but continued to round out the district with the lowest rate in the county. Water Canyon High School had the second lowest graduation rate with 62.3%.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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