High school graduation rates in Wyoming fell again this year, like they have for the past four.
Several trends among the state's high school graduation rate include:
- Females are more likely to graduate from high school than their male peers.
- The graduation rate among Native American students in Wyoming, 42 percent, is at its lowest point in four years.
- Asian and Pacific Islander students continue to be the state's smallest but highest-performing minority groups, graduating at 88 percent and 84 percent last year.
- Students speaking English as a second language graduated at a greater rate last year than the year before.
For Natrona County, the overall trend is improvement over the past decade, where graduation rates have increased from 63 percent in 2003 to 74 percent in 2013, according to information provided by the district. Graduation rates here have slipped in recent years, however, from a district high of 77 percent in 2008.
Mark Mathern, Natrona County School District associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the district has hit a plateau in recent years.
But he thinks the long-term increase in graduation rates reflects the increasing importance a high school diploma holds in the workforce.
"One thing this is telling us is the role that diplomas play in our society and in our economy," Mathern said. "High school diplomas are just essential to moving forward on any economic level or any societal level."
Changes to attendance policy, such as requiring students to stay in school until age 18 rather than 16, like state law currently says, may spark minor improvements to the graduation rate. But any major change in the district's graduation rates must involve a significant shift in the way schools approach high school, he said.
"If we’re going to make a marked increase, we are going to have to shift our thinking about our definition of engagement," Mathern said.
The district must improve its concept of real-world problems and how to make those a daily process in the high school system, he said. That's the goal of the district's upcoming switch to an academy-based learning system, where high school students can select one of several career-based academies to participate in throughout their high school career. The academies will involve job shadowing and specific course sequencing that will encourage students to go beyond an introductory-level understanding of a subject, the district has said.