PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Department of Education has released the 2017 four-year graduation rates for high schools throughout the state.
While neither the Westerly nor the Chariho school districts made it into the top 10, both schools surpassed the 90 percent graduation mark. The state graduation rate was 84 percent, a 1.3 percent improvement over 2016.
At Westerly High School, 93.8 percent of students graduated, a 3.8 percent increase over 2016. Chariho’s graduation rate was 92.5 percent, a 4.5 percent increase over the previous year.
“We have been meeting about just this issue recently with the administration and guidance staff,” Westerly Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau said.
“Continuing to push for improved graduation rates and getting our students across that finish line by any means necessary has to be an ongoing collaborative and creative effort,” he added. “We work with students, families and educators to engage kids, identify potential obstacles to graduation and problem-solve interventions, whether they be modified schedules, credit recovery, doubling up on academic courses, dual enrollment programs, whatever it takes.”
Westerly is not resting, though, Garceau said.
“Until we are at 100 percent, we’ve got to keep after it. The diploma is the most basic entry card into a successful adult life and opportunity,” he said.
Chariho Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci said his goal was a 100 percent graduation rate. He also noted that preparing young people for college and the workforce was as important as ensuring they completed high school.
“There are two parts to this story. One is the graduation rate and the other is readiness for college and careers,” he said. "With our rigorous diploma system, I’m fully confident that our graduates are ready for anything they wish to pursue. Our rate, while high, is not good enough, as any rate short of 100 percent means there’s still work to be done. I want every single one of our students to earn their high school diploma. Plain and simple, that’s our goal.”
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Ken Wagner applauded the overall increase in Rhode Island graduation rates, but he remained concerned about achievement gaps.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Rhode Island Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara S. Cottam said that while the state remains committed to its goal of a 95 percent graduation rate by the year 2025, another priority is preparing students for success after they graduate.
“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,” she said. “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.”
High schools that had graduation rates of 95 percent or higher in 2017 included Barrington High School (95.6 percent), East Greenwich High School (97.1 percent), Paul Cuffee Charter School (96.7 percent), Portsmouth High School (95.9 percent), Scituate High School (97.1 percent) and The Greene School (97.8 percent).