Arizona HS grad rate high
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
December 19, 2003
By Sarah Garrecht Gassen
Almost three in four Arizona students graduate from high school, a figure that's
higher than the national average, state officials said Thursday.
Just under 71 percent of Arizona students who started high school in the state
finished at an Arizona school, based on data from the 2000-01 school year.
That's about 3 percentage points higher than the national average of 67 percent,
according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, part of the U.S.
Department of Education.
The Arizona graduation rate increased from 70.8 percent in the 2000-01 school
year to 72.9 percent in 2001-02, state data show.
Looking at the graduation rate - which includes students who begin and finish
high school in Arizona public schools - provides a better picture than comparing
Arizona's dropout rate against other states', said State Superintendent of
Public Instruction Tom Horne.
States calculate dropout rates differently and therefore the data aren't a good
national comparison. But graduation rates are more consistent from state to
state, he said.
For example, Arizona counts students who leave school but earn a General
Education Development degree, commonly called a GED, as dropouts, but other
states do not include such students in the dropout tally.
Arizona does not count GED recipients as high school graduates, Horne said.
Arizona has historically ranked near the bottom in studies that score states on
the dropout rate.
For instance, the Children's Action Alliance released figures earlier this year
during the legislative budget debate showing that Arizona had the highest
percentage of teens who are dropouts. Carol Kamin, the group's executive
director, used that statistic and others dealing with children to argue for more
money for early childhood education and child abuse prevention programs.
Tucson Unified School District credits its graduation rate of 85 percent in
2002-03, which does include students who leave but earn GEDs, to a strong
alternative education system and dropout prevention program designed to track
kids who leave the district, said Kelly Langford, senior academic officer for
"This is the result of parents and teachers and others at the school connecting
with kids," Langford said.
Horne said business groups have supported changing the focus from dropout rates
to graduation rates.
A business leader agreed.
"Close to 99 percent of companies that relocate hire within the local market,
and a well-trained, qualified work force is the most critical issue when you're
trying to attract a company to your area," said Steve Weathers, president and
CEO of the Greater Tucson Economic Council.
"Large companies know what to look for," Weathers said. "Companies from outside
this area, when they're looking at us, they look at dropout rates, graduation
rates, test scores - all those scores."
* Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this story.
* Contact reporter Sarah Garrecht Gassen at 573-4117 or at