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Rhode Island Four-Year Graduation Rate Rises to 84 Percent

Achievement Gaps Underscore Importance of Continued Focus on Equity


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Rhode Island Department of Education announced today that the 2017 four-year graduation rate rose to 84.1 percent, a 1.3 percentage point increase over 2016, and an 8 point increase since 2010. Rhode Island saw slight improvements among certain student subgroups in the Class of 2017, as well, including a 4.1 percentage point increase for black students, a 3.6-point increase for students with disabilities, and a 1.2-point increase for low-income students.

The graduation rate for Hispanic students increased only slightly, by .3 percentage points, and went down 1.4 points for English learners.

“While the overall trend in graduation rates is encouraging, the decrease among English learners underscores the challenge we face when it comes to closing equity gaps for our students,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We need to ensure that all students, and especially our low-income students, students with disabilities, students of color and English learners, have the support they need and access to the kinds of challenging, engaging learning opportunities that will close achievement gaps and put them on a path to success.”

In addition to the four-year graduation rate, another 8.5 percent of Rhode Island students either earned their GED or were retained in school, representing 92.6 percent of students. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind, four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates will be recognized in the state’s accountability index.

“Graduation rates are an important indicator of student achievement, and we must continue to improve in order to meet our goal of graduating 95 percent of students by 2025. Graduation, though, is just one piece of the puzzle. Getting all students to the finish line requires a comprehensive strategy that starts with a strong foundation of early literacy, includes a positive school culture and engaging curriculum, and continues on to relevant, rigorous career pathways to set our students up not only to graduate, but also to excel after graduation,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Board of Education.

Also under ESSA, Rhode Island is in the process of generating updated School and District Report Cards that bring additional transparency and accessibility to education data. This year’s graduation data can be viewed using Tableau, a data visualization platform that allows educators, students, and families to examine and understand trends in their local school communities.

Several high schools have surpassed four-year graduation rates of 95 percent or higher in 2017, including Barrington High School (95.6%), East Greenwich High School (97.1%), Paul Cuffee Charter School (96.7%), Portsmouth High School (95.9%), Scituate High School (97.1%), The Greene School (97.8%), Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts (96.3%), and Village Green Virtual Charter School (98.5%).

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