MDE Weekly Superintendent Mail

March 22, 2013

A message from Commissioner Cassellius regarding graduation rates

Dear Colleagues,

The GradMinnesota initiative, announced last week and co-chaired by Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon and me, will connect our state to a nationwide movement focused on closing achievement gaps and raising graduation rates.

In Minnesota, 23 percent of students enrolled in our K-12 system do not graduate from high school in four years. This is unacceptable by any measure. Today, I’m asking for your help to begin a focused, comprehensive and collaborative effort that will put Minnesota on track to achieve a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

This goal is more than achievable if we work together. As a state, we are making important progress toward improving our high school graduation rate. Preliminary data shows that over the last two years, graduation rates have begun to increase for every subgroup, with the greatest gains in the state’s Hispanic, African American, and Asian students. This is due in no small part to the work you are doing already.

The file provided via the link below details encouraging changes from the 2010-2011 to 2011-2012 graduation rates for all districts in Minnesota. It is important to note that a district will not receive a graduation rate overall or for a subgroup if it does not have at least 40 students in the graduating cohort. The file includes five tabs, one for each subgroup, including American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, African American and White students. View Graduation Rate Change 2011 to 2012.

With the new adjusted cohort graduation rate calculation, it is more important than ever to properly track and code students in MARSS. Please remind your MARSS coordinators or the individual(s) in your districts who track students in MARSS to ensure every single student is coded correctly. Currently we have 4.2 percent of students in the state with an Unknown status. These students do not count as graduates and actually have a negative impact on our graduation rates. It is crucial that we carefully follow all students that leave our schools, especially those that transfer out of state or to nonpublic schools within the state in order to generate the most accurate information.

With improved graduation rates as our goal, we recognize that dropout prevention must be a key part of our work. Providing supports to our students who show signs of disengaging from school will help us improve our graduation rates and ensure all students receive the education they need to succeed in school and life.

MDE has developed a tool to assist schools in tracking student progress toward graduation in order to help you provide the necessary interventions and supports. The Minnesota Early Indicator and Response System (MEIRS) provides a snapshot of students in grade six and grade nine and targets students who are at increased risk of not completing high school in four years.

Using validated research-based variables associated with higher risks of dropping out that are documented in MARSS (such as attendance, multiple enrollments, state accountability test scores and suspension/expulsion) districts will be able to identify students who may need additional assistance to stay on track for graduation. Training on the use of the tool will begin this summer through fall.

I know you share my sense of urgency to change the trajectory for so many of our students. Thank you for the work you are already doing on this important effort and know I stand ready to assist you in whatever way I can to ensure every Minnesota student graduates for high school well prepared for success in college or career.