University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

It’s Graduation Time in Arkansas!

In The View from the OEP on May 7, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Just in time for Graduation Season, we are pleased to release our newest Arkansas Education Report: Graduation Rates in Arkansas, which is our first statewide examination of high school graduation rates!

Last week, we blogged about very good news for Arkansans with respect to high school graduation rates. It’s comforting to dig into US rankings and find Arkansas above the national norm!    In fact, more good news for Arkansas high school students was released this morning as the US Department of Education released Grade 12 NAEP results.  While national scores remained constant, Arkansas was the only state that experienced significant increases in both reading and math the National Assessment.

Today, however, we want to focus specifically on graduation rates in Arkansas, as the OEP publishes what we think is the first statewide analysis of high school graduatiograduation_dayn rates since the implementation of meaningful and valid graduation rate indicators in the US and AR.

The report includes lists of the top high schools in the state in terms of graduation rates and links to a database with the rates of all high schools across Arkansas.  We think this report is particularly timely as high school seniors across the state are getting ready to don their robes and cross the stage!

Take a look at our report if you’d like …

  • to learn more about our multivariate regression results (OK, we know you probably don’t!), or
  • to review our lists of the Arkansas high schools with the highest overall graduation rates, or peruse the high schools with the best graduation rates for TAGG (Disadvantaged Targeted Achievement Gap Group) Students in the schools, or
  • to learn more about OEP’s new GRAD (Graduation Regression Adjusted Deviation)  Index which recognizes schools with graduation rates that are much higher than would be predicted given the school’s characteristics, or finally,
  • to download our excel databases of the graduation rates for all high schools in the state for 2011-12 and 2012-13 so that you can check out the success of your favorite high school.

This report and these present a “first look” at graduation rate data in our state. For years, we have considered standardized test results as indicators of student outcomes and even school effectiveness.  However, all of us connected with schools realize that students learn much more in school than academic content and problem solving skills; they learn soft skills such as persistence, time management, and the ability to juggle multiple tasks and deal with numerous unique individuals.

Perhaps one measure, albeit imperfect, of the ability of schools to improve the soft skills of students is the extent to which schools successfully graduate their students.  Furthermore, it is quite clear that students benefit immensely from earning high school diplomas. For these reasons, it is critically important that we learn as much as possible about which students are graduating in Arkansas and which schools are graduating them!

The data presented in this report are simply the initial step; and we seem to have at least one clear finding from this first step: we consistently find that larger high schools and schools serving more economically-disadvantaged students have lower graduation rates.  It is perhaps somewhat surprising that high school size, or enrollment, is consistently negatively correlated with both overall and TAGG graduation rates. This is interesting in Arkansas because the largest high schools and districts often boast relatively high test score results.  While these results are not necessarily causal, they do remind us that smaller high schools in the state may provide environments that are conducive to keeping students in school through graduation.

Of course, this report does not confirm the hunches of small-school advocates, but it might provide some insights for school leaders in various communities in Arkansas who must make decisions regarding school sizes and school configurations for their students.


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