State grad rates rise, but AHS seeing decline

Published 7:19 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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Dr. Joey Page: District taking steps to further support students, teachers


With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic  seemingly in the rearview mirror, schools appear to be reaching back to normal.

According to state numbers released by the Minnesota Department of Education last  Tuesday, Minnesota’s schools are reaching near pre pandemic levels when a historic high of 83.8% of seniors graduated in 2020, just as the pandemic was ramping up.

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Last week’s numbers revealed an 83.6% graduation rates last year, up from 83.3% the year before.

However, Austin Public Schools went against this trend, reflecting a drop of 7% between 2022 and 2021. APS’s graduation rate in 2022 was 71.9% with a class of 271 seniors. The year prior, Austin graduated 78.9%.

It continues a downward trend that started from 80.8% in 2020.

In the district’s Austin Packer Bulletin sent to parents on Friday, Superintendent Dr. Joey Page addressed the sloping numbers and indicated the district would be looking at a variety of tools in the upcoming years to reverse that trend.

“We are really focusing on the work we have control over here every day,” Page said. “It takes time. It’s a year behind.”

These approaches will support both teachers and students and include the newly developed Packer Profile, which reflects three key principles to guide student experience throughout their education at Austin Public Schools:

Career Pathways Exploration: Students will leverage their interests and abilities to explore future careers and educational opportunities.

Meaningful Learning Experiences: Core content and instruction will intentionally engage students in authentic learning experiences with relevance beyond APS.

Packer Portfolio: Beginning with the class of 2027, students will celebrate by sharing their meaningful pathway journey and growth in the Packer Core Values through a digital portfolio with the community.

A part of Austin’s renewed focus will turn eyes toward student loss which has been a trend since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Knowing where we were at with our dropouts …” Page explained. “We went from 25 the year before to nearly 50.”

However, numbers and estimates suggest that is trending toward improvement, including a study by the school that indicated increasing enrollments at the kindergarten level.

Graduation rates in the state are a major indicator of school health and while APS saw a decline in those numbers, it did see some optimism in another equally important indicator — math, reading and science standards.

The district saw overall improvement in all three areas, with the most improvement coming in science and math. Science rose from 24.9% to 28% while math increased from 24.3% to 27.5%.

Reading, which didn’t improve as much, still rose from 34.5% to 35.5%

“Grad rates are certainly important and one of the pieces we look at,” Page said. “We look at readiness for kindergarten … some of them are faster indicators than graduation. We have some metrics that are faster than we think that are going to help us.”