Disturbing district grad rate deceiving

By Bryan Richardson

Discussion during a Riley County Commission meeting Monday highlighted a below-average graduation rate in the county. But it’s a complicated issue.

While the state saw 84.92 percent of its high school seniors graduate during the 2011-12 school year, the graduation rate in Riley County was only 76.12 percent.

The county’s school districts include Manhattan-Ogden USD 383, Riley County USD 378 and Blue Valley USD 384. What goes on at USD 383 provides the most impact since it is easily the largest of the three districts.

Tounty’s graduation rate was listed at 76.12 percent despite these high school numbers: 82.3 percent graduation rate at Manhattan High, 90.5 percent at Riley County High, and 93.1 percent at Blue Valley High.

That statistical oddity is because USD 383’s total graduation rate is 73.7 percent.

USD 383 Associate Superintendent Bob Seymour explained that the total graduation rate includes the district’s virtual students through iQ Academy, as well as Manhattan Alternative High School (MAHS).

“Our numbers, percentage-wise, obviously aren’t as good as other districts in the county,” Seymour said.

“We have programs that are important for at-risk students.”

He said students doing vocational training at Flint Hills Job Corps also have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma at MAHS.

“Even though they come to learn a trade, they take some high school classes,” Seymour said. “If they leave and don’t come back to school, it counts against us.”

Out of the 578 students considered in the graduation rate, Seymour said there are 87 former MAHS students that took classes but didn’t graduate.

“It becomes a question of whether you eliminate that program to raise the graduation rate,” he said. “The answer is no.”

Seymour said the district is constantly looking to improve its graduation rate.

“Of course, it’s always a concern,” he said. “We’d like to have 100 percent of students graduate.”

County commissioners Dave Lewis and Bob Boyd expressed concern about the graduation rate during Monday’s meeting.

“I’m alarmed by that in a community that prides itself on education,” Lewis said at that time.

Seymour said the district would be open to discuss the issue with the commission.

“If they have some ideas, we’ll be happy to entertain them,” he said.

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