Report: Mesa ranks No. 1 in graduation rates - East Valley Tribune: News

Report: Mesa ranks No. 1 in graduation rates

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Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 1:03 am | Updated: 9:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Mesa schools graduate a higher percentage of students than any other of the 50 largest cities in the United States.

A report released today by America’s Promise Alliance shows that 77.1 percent of students in the Mesa Unified School District graduate from high school, compared with the national average of 70 percent.

“This is a validation of our efforts,” said Linda Rottman, an area assistant superintendent for Mesa schools who oversees the high school division. “We are just thrilled.”

Rottman said Mesa has developed a series of programs that focus on engaging the individual, and she believes it is that focus that allows the district to graduate as many students as it does.

“Despite the size of Mesa schools, we have never lost sight of the individual student,” she said. “We feel like, if you can tap the heart of a child, you can help them be successful.”

School choices, tutoring, transitional programs and career planning are just some of the tools the district uses to help its students graduate, she said.

Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance, an organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, said ranking first among urban districts is an accomplishment for the district.

“Mesa can celebrate that of the 50 largest cities in the country, they are at the top,” she said. “Yet you would still like to see every child go on to earn a diploma.”

America’s Promise is expected to announce today a series of summits in each of the states to “mobilize the nation” on this subject.

At the summit, the need for curriculum reform, after-school programs, efforts to improve health care and nutrition programs, increased resources and greater accountability, will be advocated.

“We need to get the nation to realize, this is a serious problem,” Kondracke said. “It’s more than a moral imperative; it’s becoming an economic imperative,” she said. A high school diploma, she said, is the absolute minimum education for a young person to find success in the work force.

Nationwide, a young person has about a 50/50 chance of graduating from public school in an urban area, according to the report.

The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that high school dropouts from the last year’s graduating class will cost the U.S. more than $329 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes. Nearly half of all black and American Indian students will not graduate with their class, while less than six in 10 Hispanic students will, the report found.

So, why is Mesa doing better than cities like Detroit, where less than 25 percent of its students graduate?

Kondracke said she can speculate that Mesa has a more committed community, stronger leadership, stronger families and fewer of the urban problems other cities encounter.

“I would love for Mesa to beat the drum and say ‘Let’s finish the job, and help our sister cities to do it, too,’ ” she said.

City Principal School District Graduation Rate (2003-04)
Mesa, Ariz Mesa Unified District 77.1%
San Jose, Calif. San Jose Unified 77.0%
Nashville, Tenn. Nashville-Davidson Co. School District 77.0%
Colorado Springs, Colo. Colorado Springs School District 76.0%
San Francisco, Calif. San Francisco Unified 73.1%
Tucson, Ariz. Tucson Unified District 71.7%
Seattle, Wash. Seattle School District 67.6%
Virginia Beach, Va. Virginia Beach City Public Schools 67.4%
Sacramento, Calif. Sacramento City Unified 66.7%
Honolulu, Hawaii Hawaii Department of Education 64.1%
Louisville, Ky. Jefferson County School District 63.7%
Long Beach, Calif. Long Beach Unified 63.5%
Arlington, Texas Arlington ISD 62.7%
Memphis, Tenn. Memphis City School District 61.7%
San Diego, Calif. San Diego Unified 61.6%
Albuquerque, N.M. Albuquerque Public Schools 60.8%
El Paso, Texas El Paso ISD 60.5%
Charlotte, N.C. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools 59.8%
Wichita, Kan. Wichita Public Schools 59.6%
Phoenix, Ariz. Phoenix Union High School District 58.3%
Austin, Texas Austin ISD 58.2%
Washington, D.C. District of Columbia Public Schools 58.2%
Fresno, Calif. Fresno Unified 57.4%
Boston, Mass. Boston Public Schools 57.0%
Fort Worth, Texas Fort Worth ISD 55.5%
Omaha, Neb. Omaha Public Schools 55.1%
Houston, Texas Houston ISD 54.6%
Portland, Ore. Portland School District 53.6%
Las Vegas, Nev. Clark County School District 53.1%
San Antonio, Texas San Antonio ISD 51.9%
Chicago, Ill. City of Chicago School District 51.5%
Tulsa, Okla. Tulsa Public Schools 50.6%
Jacksonville, Fla. Duval County School District 50.2%
Philadelphia, Pa. Philadelphia City School District 49.6%
Miami, Fla. Dade County School District 49.0%
Oklahoma City, Okla. Oklahoma City Public Schools 47.5%
Denver, Colo. Denver County School District 46.3%
Milwaukee, Wis. Milwaukee Public Schools 46.1%
Atlanta, Ga. Atlanta City School District 46.0%
Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City School District 45.7%
Oakland, Calif. Oakland Unified 45.6%
Los Angeles, Calif. Los Angeles Unified 45.3%
New York, N.Y. New York City Public Schools 45.2%
Dallas, Texas Dallas ISD 44.4%
Minneapolis, Minn. Minneapolis Public Schools 43.7%
Columbus, Ohio Columbus Public Schools 40.9%
Baltimore, Md. Baltimore City Public School System 34.6%
Cleveland, Ohio Cleveland Municipal City School District 34.1%
Indianapolis, Ind. Indianapolis Public Schools 30.5%
Detroit, Mich. Detroit City School District 24.9%
50-City Average   51.8%
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