State data on four-year graduation rates released by the Iowa Department of Education last week show continued improvement of graduation rates for the Ames Community School District. For the past four years, Ames High School graduation rates, especially rates for most student subgroups, have been trending upward and exceeding state graduation rates.

Overall, 93.2 percent of Ames High School seniors graduated in 2016—an all-time high in the past five years.

Associate Superintendent Mandy Ross said the steadily improving graduation rates in Ames are the result of systemic work to ensure that students meet milestones that are predictors of graduation, such as reading at grade level by third grade and attending school regularly beginning in preschool.

“Doing the work to ensure students graduate begins long before high school,” Ross said.

Besides supporting academic achievement, the District takes proactive measures using an Early Indicator System (EIS) to identify students in middle school and high school who are at risk for failing or dropping out based on attendance, academic performance, or office referrals. Implemented in 2013, the EIS is now used District-wide.

At the high school level, the EIS helps staff identify students who need support to meet graduation requirements. These students receive coordinated interventions that may include Additional Instruction, Alternative Learning Programs and Credit Recovery plans. Since the EIS was implemented, Ames High School graduation rates have improved and exceeded state graduation rates for all student subgroups except Asian students.

Highlights of the report:

  • The graduation rate for black students in Ames High School has improved from 53 percent in 2013, to 70 percent in 2015 and to 95.2 percent in 2016. The state’s 2016 graduation rate for black students is 79.7.
  • The graduation rate for students with individualized education plans (IEPs) has improved from 63.3 percent in 2013, to 75 percent in 2015 and 77.78 percent in 2016.
  • The graduation rate for students with low income backgrounds has been rising since 2012 when 73.6 percent of students graduated, to 85.4 percent graduating in 2016.
  • Hispanic students at Ames High School graduated at a rate of 95 percent in 2016, a rate higher than their white peers but down from 100 percent from 2015.
  • For the first time in five years, graduation rates for Asian students in 2016 dropped below state averages, to 87.5 percent.
  • While still above the state average of 92.93 percent, graduation rates for white students dipped slightly from 94.3 percent in 2015 to 93.15 percent in 2016, maintaining a narrow range between 92.98 and 94.3 percent for the past five years.

Fluctuations in the subgroup percentages often indicate a change in the number of students in the group in addition to overall performance.