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High School Graduation Rate & Graduation Rate Equity

President Obama established a goal to achieve a 90% high school graduation rate nationwide by 2020. The link between educational attainment and earnings potential is well documented. Research by the Institute for... Read More

President Obama established a goal to achieve a 90% high school graduation rate nationwide by 2020. The link between educational attainment and earnings potential is well documented. Research by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan shows that, on average, households headed by a high school graduate accumulate 10x more wealth than households headed by an individual who dropped out of high school. However, a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that there is a significant variation in graduation rates amongst student cohorts, including federally-defined racial/ethnic groups, special education, low income, and English language learners. Given the relationship between diploma attainment and future economic prosperity, this disparity is an equity issue.

This indicator assesses the attainment of high school diplomas overall and by cohort. Data is available from the state Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education (DoED) requires all state and local educational agencies receiving Title 1 funds to calculate and report their 4-year adjusted high school graduation rate, overall and by select student cohorts. Participants are required to report for at least the largest public school district serving the jurisdiction.

Abington, Pennsylvania

Student achievement is at the heart of the mission of Abington School District (ASD) and, over the years, the student body has attained high scores on standardized tests. However, with the implementation of “No Child Left Behind” and the requirement to disaggregate test results, the district noted significant gaps in... Read More

Student achievement is at the heart of the mission of Abington School District (ASD) and, over the years, the student body has attained high scores on standardized tests. However, with the implementation of “No Child Left Behind” and the requirement to disaggregate test results, the district noted significant gaps in the achievement scores for African American and special education students. To address this issue, ASD established a Superintendent’s Committee to focus on Opportunities to Learn (OTL). This committee, consisting of over 100 teachers, parents, students, community representatives and representatives from the Board of School Directors, identified, collected and analyzed data for the purpose of formulating cost-effective strategies, programs, activities and other initiatives that encourage and support broader numbers of students to achieve proficiency and success in rigorous academic courses. The committee submitted seven recommendations which lead to an organized procedure to de-track courses at the secondary level and resulted in all students enrolling in either college preparatory or honors/Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s) were encouraged to enroll in these rigorous, de-tracked courses. To provide appropriate support for students who struggle to learn, learning support sessions were scheduled during the school day and schedules for elective courses were made flexible. This ensured that all students would receive rigorous instruction and be better prepared to meet the exponentially competitive demands of a 21st century workforce.

Over a period of ten years, the achievement gap in mathematics for African American students narrowed by 10% and for special education students, by 18%. In reading, the achievement gap for African American students narrowed by 15% and for special education students, by 28%.

OTL's success evolved into a paradigm for demonstrating that equity promotes excellence for all students. This ASD initiative has been recognized throughout the US and is described in the book, Excellence Through Equity by Alan Blankstein and Pedro Nogeura, published in 2015. OTL's principles include:

  • Heterogeneously-grouped classes
  • Participation of minority students in honors and AP courses
  • Inclusion of special education students in general education classes
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Strategies to engage parents in students’ learning.

In 2011, Abington School District achieved the College Board's Advanced Placement District of the Year Award. This honor roll consisted of the 388 U.S. public school districts that simultaneously achieved increases in access to AP® courses for a broader number of students and maintaining or improving the rate at which their AP students earned scores of 3 or higher on an AP Exam. The number of ASD students taking AP exams increased from 168 in 2009 to 252 in 2013 and the number of AP exams taken rose from 321 in 2009 to 620 in 2013.

Abington Senior High School currently offers 26 different AP classes. Moreover, Abington students may opt for "dual enrollment" and enroll in college courses at nearby Penn State University-Abington campus. This program enables students to take college level courses and receive credit for both high school graduation requirements and college coursework.

Additional “unanticipated” wins resulting from the OTL initiative include: US News’ list of Best High Schools (2012); Newsweek’s Top 500 High Schools (2014); and District Administration’s A "District of Distinction" in 2015, the magazine's national recognition program, for serving as a model for school leaders throughout the US.

Supporting documentation: indicator11_abington_2014-2015-pennsylvania-4-year-cohort-grad-rates.xlsx (346.72 KB)