BZ 052317 Ben Lomond Graduation 06-2

More than 300 students graduated from Ben Lomond High School during commencement ceremonies at the Dee Event Center on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

OGDEN — The graduation rate at Ogden’s high schools jumped in the 2016-2017 school year, surpassing the overall improvement statewide.

The improvement, from 68 percent in 2015-2016 to 75 percent, puts the Ogden School District ahead of its target graduation rate for 2018, 72 percent, and news of the jump had school officials beaming. 

“Certainly a celebration to be had as we improve the lives of students in the community on which we serve,” OSD Superintendent Rich Nye told the Ogden school board last week in announcing the numbers, released this month by the Utah State Board of Education.

The seven percentage point jump notwithstanding, OSD’s 75 percent graduation rate still lags the state figure, 86 percent. It also trails the Weber School District figure, 85 percent, up from 83 percent, as the chart below shows.

Moreover, OSD — with one of the highest percentages of low-income students in the state — still sits at the bottom of Utah’s 41 school districts. Its 75 percent graduation rate holds a three-way tie for last place with the much larger Granite School District, serving West Valley City, Magna, South Salt Lake and other cities south of Salt Lake City, and the much smaller North Sanpete School District in central Utah. Last school year, the Ogden district sat alone in the cellar.

Still, Ogden officials found room for cheer.

Aside from the overall jump, Nye singled out improvements in the graduation rates among the district’s Latino students, up 8.1 percentage points to 74 percent, and low-income students, up 8.6 percentage points to 73 percent. Those figures easily surpassed improvements across Utah within the subgroups — 3 percentage points among Latinos statewide to 77 percent and 2 percentage points for low-income students, also to 77 percent.

The bar chart below demonstrates the gap in graduation rates among students from different social-economical groups between the Ogden district and the state average.

Income levels can factor into educational attainment and 76 percent of OSD students were deemed low-income in 2016-2017. That’s the second-highest rate in the state behind only San Jaun School District in extreme southeastern Utah, with a low-income rate of 100 percent, according to Utah State Board of Education figures.

Just over half the student population is Latino in Ogden schools, the highest concentration of any Utah public school district. 

WSD spokesman Lane Findlay, for his part, said the graduation rates at the district’s four main high schools all measured 90 percent or more for the first time. The numbers were 92 percent at Bonneville High, 93 percent at Fremont High, 90 percent at Roy High and 94 percent at Weber High.

“A lot of this can be attributed to our focus on early intervention and identifying students who may be struggling in the lower grades,” Findlay said in an email. “By providing services and resources to students as they enter high school, it helps keep them on track to graduate.”

The graduation rates for Ogden High and Ben Lomond High, the two main OSD high schools, were 82 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

To the south in Davis School District, the overall graduation rate totaled 94 percent, same as the year before, with the figures for the main district high schools ranging from 92 percent to 98 percent, as shown below. 

‘WE DO NOT LOWER THE BAR’

In response to news last year of the 68 percent graduation rate, OSD officials pinpointed improving the rate and boosting literacy as two key goals, via a program dubbed Project Nexus. The district goal is to reach a graduation rate of 88 percent by 2022.

Broadly, efforts have focused on knowing how each student is doing and customizing educational efforts based on individual needs. 

“The focus centered on targeted plans for specific kids and the support they might need to address their academic needs, their behavior needs and their needs outside of the school,” Chad Carpenter, OSD’s assistant superintendent said.

At Ben Lomond High, teachers and staff meet weekly to discuss student progress, tapping the help of case workers for at-risk kids, among other things.

“We do not lower the bar to help kids graduate but rather provide every intervention to help them meet the mark,” Ben Lomond High Principal Dale Wilkinson said. “We have worked to improve instruction so kids better understand the content they are learning and feel better about being in school.”

The chart below shows the graduation rates of students from different social-economical groups Ogden's three public high schools.

Click on the column chart below to find the graduation rates of all public schools, traditional and chart, in Weber County in 2016-17.

Graphics created by Sheila Wang. Reach her at swang@standard.net, follow her on Twitter at @SheilaWang7 or like her on Facebook @journalistSheilaW.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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