Many high schoolers taking longer to graduate

During his annual address, state schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal updated the state of Washington’s K-12 education system and said, “We are recovering. Period.”

He added: “Our schools are leveraging one-time federal funds to support student learning and well-being recovery in innovative ways, and their tireless efforts have had a tangible impact. However, our students’ needs are profound, and they preceded the pandemic.”

The report included data about state graduation rates and noted that some students are taking up to seven years to graduate. That is in accordance with state law that allows students to attend high school through the age of 20, giving extra time in the event of illness or other events that may have impacted their road to graduation.

The report states the graduation rate for 2022 was 82.3 percent, a small decline of 0.2 percentage points compared with 2021. 2022 continued to see near record-high graduation rates for students in their fifth, sixth and seventh years.

The Bainbridge Island School District has seen a decline in graduation rates but continues to outpace the state rate. In 2022, 380 students, or 91 percent, graduated; in 2021, 377, or 93.6 percent graduated; and in 2020, 358 students, or 93 percent, graduated.

The pandemic years greatly impacted students and some were not able to earn the 24 credits required in four years due to mental and physical health concerns that impacted attendance, family circumstances or other factors. The state Board of Education waived some graduation requirements for students who faced hardships, and the board extended the waiver program for the class of 2024, who were freshmen at the time of the 2020 school shutdowns.

Kristen Haizlip, BISD executive director of Secondary Teaching & Learning, said, “Our district has a six-period scheduled day, which means that all students must earn credit for all courses taken for all four years in order to be on track to graduate.”

Haizlip said the goal is to ensure that all students graduate. Beginning mid-year of 9th-grade school counselors and administrators work closely to provide options and interventions for students who lack credits. “Additionally, we utilize funding from the Bainbridge Schools Foundation to staff our middle and high schools with Academic Interventionists that provide direct academic support to struggling students in grades 7-12.”

For students who need a fifth year to complete coursework, individual plans are created for credit recovery using summer school and alternative credit options such as Running Start, West Sound Tech and Work-Based Learning.

The district’s efforts to support students the past few years were successful, and it did not see many students take more than four years to graduate. There were some exceptions. Students with an Individualized Education Program and those who receive Special Education Services may have an intentional five- or six-year plan for graduation and may include coursework through the Adult Learning Program in years five and six.

Haizlip said few students go to school on campus for five years, and no students have attended classes on campus for a sixth or seventh year in the past 10 years.