Iowa chalked up the best graduation rate in the country for 2016, surpassing all of its neighboring states.
In Iowa’s Class of 2016, 91.3 percent of the students graduated in four years, according to a press release from the Iowa Department of Education. The only other state with a rate greater than 90 percent was New Jersey at 90.1, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics.
“It is so important for kids to graduate from high school,” said Vickie Murillo, superintendent of Council Bluffs Community School District. “That’s the launching pad for whatever they choose to do after high school.”
The fact that the state is proud of its graduation rate encourages pride on the local level, as well, she said.
Nebraska did the best of Iowa’s border states, achieving a four-year graduation rate of 89.3 percent, the NCES report stated. Others and their rates were, Missouri, 89 percent; Wisconsin, 88.2 percent; Illinois, 85.5 percent; South Dakota, 83.9 percent; and Minnesota, 82.2 percent.
The national average was 84.1 percent.
Lewis Central Community School District’s rate of 92.8 percent was up slightly from its 2015 rate of 92.6. Council Bluffs Community School District’s rate of 87.11 percent was down from its 2015 rate of 88.49 percent but followed a decade of steady improvement.
Council Bluffs will continue to use some of the tools that have helped it increase its rate, Murillo said. Those include graduation coaches who meet one-on-one with students and both instructional and social wrap-around services, including those for students’ families.
“We want our families to feel welcome here in the Council Bluffs Community School District,” she said.
Lewis Central, too, is still working to improve its graduation rate, Superintendent Mark Schweer said.
“It’s part of the high school’s building improvement plan to improve graduation rates,” he said. “There’s lots of efforts being made at the high school to make sure kids graduate.”
Lewis Central High School Principal Joel Beyenhof said he felt good about how the school was doing.
“For the last five years, we’ve been above the state average,” he said.
LCHS was at 92.6 percent for four years before the uptick in 2016, Beyenhof said.
“It’s really been a charge for us, and we’ve approached it by having kids think beyond graduation,” he said. “I think the key is, the secret to graduation isn’t lowering expectations, it’s about raising expectations. Our goal is that 95 percent or more of our students will have plans to attend a four-year, two-year or trade school or enlist in the military” after graduation.