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The Full Story on Graduation Rates

By David Britten, Superintendent of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools

The State of Michigan has released the graduation rates for the cohort Class of 2014-15 and overall they continue to climb.

Reports by local media tend to show a district’s combined graduation rate, lumping together all of the high schools within a district, including those designed to provide an alternative pathway to a high school diploma or GED for students who for many reasons were not successful at their home school.

The chart below depicts the 4, 5 and 6 year graduation rates for those students in our district who graduated in 2015. As you can clearly see, the rates continue to improve overall but don’t tell the full story for each high school.

See related story focusing on graduation rates in GRPS: Graduation Rates Up for Some, but Challenges Remain


Lee High School, which has experienced significant growth as well as a substantial cultural change since the dawn of the 21st century, continues a strong 4-year on-time graduation trend as the chart below depicts. Considering that the community battles with the highest child poverty rate in the county and our extraordinary staff works to help many limited-English-proficient students meet success, we should be proud of what our students, parents and staff accomplish each year!

14-15 graduation dropout trend Lee High School
14-15 graduation dropout trend Lee High School

The trend for Lee High School’s graduation rate continues to be higher than the statewide graduation rate as the following two charts indicate:

14-15 graduation dropout trend statewide
14-15 graduation dropout trend statewide

East Lee Campus is a non-traditional high school that provides many young men and women with what often is their last chance to successfully complete high school or prepare for the GED test. This school is an “open enrollment” campus that allows students who have dropped out or find they are struggling due to a number of life’s circumstances to return to the classroom. Many are already behind in their education and it isn’t unusual for students to take an additional year or two to complete their graduation requirements. We believe the opportunity we provide these students is invaluable and contributes positively to the community and Greater Grand Rapids area at large. The federal and state government and many of our citizens, however, don’t always see it that way and prefer to label our district as sub-standard or failing. Little do they know.

The chart below illustrates the 4-year graduation rate at East Lee but as I pointed out, it’s unfair to brand the school as anything but exemplary given that most students arrive there behind in their respective educations. Because it’s not unusual for a student to need a 5th year to get on track and successfully complete the Michigan Merit Curriculum requirements for graduation, the next subsequent slide shows the positive 5-year trend for graduates through 2015.

14-15 graduation dropout trend 2015 graduation cohort
14-15 graduation dropout trend 2015 graduation cohort

14-15 graduation dropout trend
14-15 graduation dropout trend

As you can see from the chart below, the trend has accelerated significantly since 2010 but actually, it has been improving since the graduation rate was sort of drifting along hit bottom in 2009-10, as the next chart shows. At that point, we made some changes and much of this improvement is attributable to effective leadership and the hard work of staff and students to rebrand the school and develop a more rigorous academic and job skills focus. Since those changes, the improvement has been very positive.

10-11 graduation dropout trend
10-11 graduation dropout trend

This chart is a similar trend chart as the one above but for the four years preceding. If you follow this one to the one above it, you will get an idea of the dramatic turnaround at East Lee Campus these past seven years.

We’re proud of our high schools (as we are of all our schools) and the success they are achieving! We’re very excited for the future of our students who have been demonstrating time and again they have what it takes to overcome many obstacles they face and reach their educational goals and life dreams.

If you wish to examine this data in more detail or look at other data for our district, state or any school in the state, you can go to http://www.mischooldata.org.

More blogs from David Britten

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