Metro Nashville Public Schools received plenty of praise from political and education leaders last year when the graduation rate spiked to 83 percent, a 10-point climb from 73 percent in 2009.
But the district’s 2011 graduation rate –– as revealed in the Tennessee Department of Education’s 2011 Report Card, released Friday –– has dropped back down, with 76 percent of Metro students graduating in 2011. The state’s graduation rate for 2011 is 85.5 percent.
Metro’s dive had been expected.
New state high school graduation standards now require English Language Learners and students with disabilities to graduate in four years. Previously, these two groups had five years to earn a diploma.
“We knew the change to a four-year rate would affect us more than most districts,” MNPS officials said in a press release.
MNPS has Tennessee’s largest non-English-speaking student population. Nearly 14 percent of Metro’s approximately 80,000 students are considered limited in English proficiency.
Asked whether Metro’s graduation rate would have remained the same if standards hadn’t changed, MNPS spokeswoman Olivia Brown said the district is still reviewing the report card’s data.
The 2011 state report card could be the state’s final progress report tied directly to federal No Child Left Behind data. Tennessee, as well as several other states, has applied for exemptions from the federal standards. The U.S. Department of Education is expected to notify Tennessee by the end of the year on the fate of its waiver.
In a new release, Metro officials touted the district’s increased scores in reading, science, math and social studies. In addition, the district’s dropout rate has dwindled to 2.3 percent from 4.4. percent one year ago.
Despite some positives, Metro falls under “Restructuring I” of the No Child Left Behind classification, as the district failed to meet proficiency requirements in all subgroups after standards heightened. However, given the likelihood of a full exception from the federal law, Metro’s status is arguably less significant than in past years.
“We are seeing a great deal of progress across the board, and fully support the state’s pursuit of an accountability process that accurately reflects the progress of our schools and students,” Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register said in a statement.
“We have just received the final Report Card information and are currently reviewing the information it contains,” he added.
At the high school level, Metro’s subgroups of students with disabilities and ELL learners failed to meet benchmarks in math. Five high school demographics failed to meet benchmarks in reading: African-Americans, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, disabled and ELL students.
Metro’s elementary and middle school students as a whole did not reach federal benchmarks in reading or math.
The following elementary/middle subgroups failed to reach proficiency levels in both subject areas: African-Americans, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, and ELL students.