US Education Department Numbers Show OK High School Graduation Rate Drops

Tuesday, October 20th 2015, 4:57 pm
By: Grant Hermes

Oklahoma is one of five states in which graduation rates dropped during the 2013 to 2014 school year, according to early numbers from the U.S. Department of Education.

The National Center for Education Statistics found graduation rates in 36 states compared to the 2012 to 2013 school year.

Oklahoma schools, along with those in Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington D.C. all saw decreases in grad rates. Oklahoma's fell roughly 2 percent to 82.7 percent of students getting their diplomas last year.

“It is a reflection of our status of being 49th in the amount we are investing in per pupil spending. It is a reflection of the crisis in our public schools," University of Oklahoma president David Boren said via email Tuesday.  

Boren has been a vocal advocate for creating changes to state taxes to fund public education.

The drop in rates comes as Oklahoma battles an unprecedented teacher shortage and conflicting views from education and policy leaders on what to do about it. But most agree, funding and putting resources towards bringing teachers back into the classroom will serve students best.

“Absolutely this is a wake-up call to say, 'hey, if we're going to say education is a priority, then let's make it a priority and fund it,'" Oklahoma Education Association president Alicia Priest said.

Compared to the rest of the country, Oklahoma falls in the bottom half for graduation rates, coming in 29th place, according to the numbers. However, Oklahoma schools fall above the national average of 81.4 percent by a full percentage point. 

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister released a statement and called the drop in graduation rates unacceptable.

"It is critical we increase the number of high school graduates who are college and career-ready. Oklahoma can accomplish this by giving teachers and administrators the opportunities and resources to grow professionally,” she said.

According to the national Department of Education, the preliminary numbers released this week are subject to change and final totals will be released in the coming months.

At the top of the list was Iowa with a graduation rate of 90.5 percent and Washington D.C. was last with 61.4 percent. Numbers for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Puerto Rico were not given