For the first time in a decade, the percentage of students graduating from Robbinsdale Area Schools (Rdale) is higher than the state average, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Tuesday, April 25.
Rdale’s four-year graduation rate of 84.6 is a full percentage point higher than state number (83.6) released by MDE on April 25, and marks a 10-year high for the district.
“We’re in the business of guiding our students toward earning their diplomas and walking across the graduation stage with pride. This data shows how the hard work of our students and educators is paying off,” said Superintendent David Engstrom.
While the graduation rate data should serve as a source of pride for Rdale students, staff and community members, Superintendent Engstrom said it’s important to understand there’s work left to do.
“We can celebrate this news today, but it’s important to understand we still have areas where we need to do a better job,” he said. “Our goal as a school district is for every one of our students to graduate, and we will continue to work to make that a reality.”
Some of those areas for improvement: graduation rates among Asian (90.0), white (88.7) and students of two or more races (85.7) each fell approximately 1 percent.
Rdale’s strides in improving graduation rates for Black and African American, Hispanic and Latino, and English learner (EL) students are noteworthy. In 2022, 84.8 percent of Black and African American students graduated, which is a 7 point spike from 2021, and 11.3 points higher than the state. Meanwhile, Hispanic and Latino students had a 76.1 percent graduation rate last year, which was a 6.8 point increase, and 6.8 points better than the state. Finally, EL students had a 78 percent graduation rate in 2022, which is 10.3 points better than the previous year, and 13 points higher than the state.
“Students of color have been the subject of discussions regarding the achievement gap with respect to their white peers for a long time. And it's been a focus of Rdale and educators across the country to find ways for students of color to graduate at rates that match their white classmates,” said Superintendent Engstrom. “This is evidence that some of the work we’re doing in our high schools, particularly for students of color, is starting to resonate.”
A lot of that work includes one-on-one interaction with students, which has been important for boosting achievement and graduation rates, according to Matt Pletcher, the district’s director of secondary curriculum. Some of that work includes things like school-day interventions where students work individually with teachers and education assistants (EAs) when they need additional support, and pairing seniors with case managers in situations where they are falling behind in a class.
Also part of the work is Rdale’s focus on multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), which is a framework that brings together what teachers see in the classroom with a student’s assessment results to create more personalized instruction for every student.
“There are a lot of strategies that teachers and staff can use to reach students who need a little more support, and this is evidence the approach is working,” Pletcher said. “It’s all connected, and it’s all in place to help students at whichever level they need a little help.”
In addition to individualized support, broader tactics have also been used, such as the implementation of BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) programming at the high schools, which provides a data-driven approach to helping meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of all students. Aggressive credit recovery and completion programs have also helped make a difference for students.
“For years, Rdale has been thoughtful in working toward making sure more of our students graduate. The pandemic was disruptive, but the work continued,” Superintendent Engstrom said. “This data is validating, and I’m proud of our students, our high school staff, and everyone in the district.”
Other notes from the data
- Rdale’s seven-year graduation rate also climbed, reaching 89.2 in 2022. The seven-year rate reflects graduates of Robbinsdale Transition Center (RTC), the district’s special education program serving students, ages 18-21, who are continuing to work on social skills, as well as students who were unsuccessful in graduating with their peers but continued their education to earn their diploma or GED.
- While the district’s overall graduation rate climbed 1.5 points from last year to 84.6 percent, Armstrong High School’s rate fell 2.7 points to 89.5, which is still 5.9 points higher than the state.
- Cooper High School’s rate climbed to 90.7 percent, an increase of 3.9 points from 2021. It’s Cooper’s highest rate in a decade.
- Robbinsdale Academy-Highview’s graduation rate jumped 6.9 percentage points compared to last year to 55.8 percent. It’s Highview’s highest rate in a decade.
- The graduation rate for American Indian students is 62.1 percent for 2022, which is 0.8 points higher than the state.
- Asian students have a 90 percent graduation rate for 2022, which is a 1.4 point decrease compared to 2021, but remains 2.7 points higher than the state.
- As discussed, the graduation rates for three groups of students experienced significant increases:
- Black and African American rates rose 7 points to 84.4 percent, which is 11.3 points higher than the state.
- Latino/Hispanic rates rose 6.8 points to 76.1 percent, which is 6.8 points higher than the state.
- Rates for EL students rose 10.3 points to 78 percent, which is 13 points higher than the state.
- Those weren’t the only big increases in graduation rates:
- Students who qualify for free/reduced price meals had a graduation rate of 80.4 in 2022, which is a 3 point increase, and 9.3 points higher than the state.
- Rates for special education students rose 3.4 points to 71.5 percent, which is 5.9 percent higher than the state. The increase continues a seven-year upward trend.
- The rate for white students fell 0.9 points to 88.7, but remains 0.2 percent higher than the state.
- Students identifying as two or more races fell 0.7 points to 85.7 percent, which is 6.5 percent higher than the state.
Comprehensive data will be shared with Rdale’s Board of Education at an upcoming work session and business meeting.
For more information about the state’s release of 2022 graduation data, check out the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) press release.