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Utah high school graduation drops to 75 percent, still beats national average

By Molly Farmer | Posted - Dec. 20, 2011 at 11:54 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's high school graduation rates vary significantly under a new federal calculation that all states were required to use this year, according to a recent report.

Under the new calculation, Utah's 2010 graduation rate was 75 percent, yet the old formula the state used showed a 90 percent rate. Utah's 2011 graduation rate under the federal calculation was 76 percent.

"It's a change in the calculation, not a change in the student behavior," said Judy Park, state associate superintendent over student services and federal programs.

Park said the new formula broadens the definition of a non-graduates beyond simply those students who drop out. For instance, the federal calculation considers GED recipients "non-graduates," whereas the state previously included them in the graduation rate.

"Of course it would be lower, because it's calculated so different," Park said.

While the 15-point disparity was jarring the first time she saw it, Park said the state has a lot to be proud of. Under the new calculation, Utah beats out the national average, Park said. What's more, the state has seen market improvement since 2008, and has increased its graduation rate by 7 percent.

"I think there's nothing there but cause for celebration," Park said.

The federal graduation rate only includes students who receive a high school diploma or an adult education secondary diploma. Previously, the state's criteria for what constituted a "graduate" included students who transferred directly to higher education or the Utah College of Applied Technology without receiving a diploma. It also included GED recipients and students who participate in the Utah Alternative Assessment.

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