Albert Lea’s overall graduation rate decreases

Published 6:44 am Friday, March 29, 2024

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Numbers up at the high school, down at Area Learning Center

Albert Lea Area Schools saw a slight decrease in overall graduation rates in 2023, though there was an increase reported at the high school, according to updated numbers released Thursday from the Minnesota Department of Education.

According to the data, 201 students, or 75.6%, of the district’s schools graduated in four years during 2023. That is down from 78.1% in 2022.

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In 2021, it was 71.8%; in 2020 it was 80.9%, and in 2019 it was 75.4%.

“Albert Lea Area Schools acknowledges the overall decrease in graduation rates for all students while Albert Lea High School saw a slight increase in graduation rates,” the district said in a press release. “The graduation rate data prompts a call to action for proactive analysis and strategic planning. While this decline poses a challenge, it also underscores the importance of asking probing questions and disaggregating data to identify underlying factors and opportunities for growth.”

The release stated the district aims to pinpoint areas needing improvement and implement targeted interventions through strategic planning.

“By delving deeper into the data and fostering collaboration among stakeholders, we can develop innovative solutions to support our students on their path to graduation,” the district said.

At Albert Lea High School, the rate increased from 86.6% in 2022 to 88.3% in 2023. The last time the rate was at that level was in 2019, when the school graduation rate was 88.6%.

At the Albert Lea Area Learning Center, the rate dipped from 41.7% in 2022 to 28.6% in 2023. The highest rate in the last five years was in 2020 when it was 63.9%.

“Albert Lea Area Schools remains dedicated to equipping every student with the tools they need to be engaged citizens and lifelong learners,” the district stated. “The district is poised to identify proactive solutions that can reverse the trend and uphold its commitment to student success.”

Statewide results

Statewide, the 2023 graduation rate was 83.3%, down from 83.6% in 2022.

Close to 60,000 Minnesota students graduated on a four-year-timeline last year, while nearly 4,000 earned diplomas within five, six or seven years, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.

Part of that dip was driven by an increase in the “unknown rate” — students who were either incorrectly reported or not reported as enrolled elsewhere, the department said in a statement Thursday accompanying the new data. Those students may not be dropouts.

The overall data, though, shows graduation rates for English language learners and some students of color — among  those most disproportionately affected by the pandemic — moving in the wrong direction.

Before the pandemic, Minnesota’s class of 2020 had a record high graduation rate of 83.8 percent.

District 23A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, who is the Republican lead on the Minnesota House Education Policy Committee, said the results were disappointing.

“Much like everything else related to K-12 Education in this state over the past four years, the numbers show continued failure,” Bennett said of the state results. “Democrat strategies have failed our schools, failed our parents and failed our students. All of this points to an education system that is blinking red and crying out for reform and focus on real academic priorities.”

Bennett said she thinks making some changes to the state’s educational playbook would turn these numbers around. Among her priorities: providing more local control where teachers and communities can be innovative in education; empowering parents so they are engaged in their children’s education; and focusing on the science of reading to promote increased student literacy.

“When children cannot read, they cannot function well in any other educational subject,” she said.

“Year after year, we continue to make ‘historic’ investments in K-12 education, yet where are the successful results?” Bennett said. “Today’s graduation rate news once again highlights that our schools, and our children need real solutions that will work.”

Graduation rates from area schools

Albert Lea, 201 students, 75.6%

Alden-Conger, 34 students, 100%

Glenville-Emmons, 15 students, 88.2%

NRHEG, 68 students, 88.3%

United South Central, 32 students, 74.4%