District 11 boasts high continuation rates, studies achievement gap

Anoka-Hennepin’s self-produced 2012-2013 Academic Achievement Report indicates that graduation rates in the district are slightly lower than the state average, but that District 11 has a high continuation rate.

“The four-year graduation rate, in my belief, is simply overemphasized,” Superintendent Dennis Carlson said at the school board meeting Nov. 12 when district administrators presented the first part of the report to the school board. “We stick with our kids in Anoka-Hennepin.”

Statewide in 2012, about 78 percent of students graduated on time. It was closer to 75 percent in Anoka-Hennepin.

Between 54 and 55 percent of black and Hispanic students graduated on time in District 11, while almost 79 percent of white students did, highlighting that the achievement gap schools continually work to decrease still plagues the education system.

Instead of dropping out, 13 percent of students continued with their education in Minnesota and almost 19 percent continued in District 11. Nearly 38 percent of black students in the district continued.

Johnna Rohmer-Hirt, director of research, evaluation and testing in the district, pointed out the necessity of viewing the graduation and continuation rates in tandem. The continuation rate is “one of the big points to celebrate,” she said.

Administrators and board members agreed.

“Here’s a news flash: Not everyone learns at the same rate,” Carlson said. “We have a lot of students that benefit by us sticking with our kids, so I’m very proud of that continuation rate.”

Carlson and Board Chairman Tom Heidemann reflected on graduation ceremonies at Bridges and Transitions Plus, where it is not uncommon for 21-year-old students to earn their diploma.

“Not every child has the family and home circumstances that allow them to graduate in four years,” Heidemann said. “It just takes longer because of circumstances largely out of the control of the students.”

With higher continuation rates, the district sees lower dropout rates than the state. In 2012, approximately 5 percent of students dropped out in Minnesota; only 3 percent did so in District 11.

However, more and more Hispanic students have continued to drop out locally since 2009. More than 9 percent of the Hispanic population dropped out in 2012.

State test scores indicate that the achievement gap is closing in science and math, but it increased in reading this year. There was a new reading assessment, which likely caused the spike, according to Rohmer-Hirt.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]