Graduation rates spiked at Indiana public schools in the 2008-09 academic year, giving state and local leaders hope that they are turning around a dropout problem that has plagued many school systems.
According to data released Friday by the Indiana Department of Education, 81.2 percent of Hoosier high school students scheduled to graduate in 2009 did.
That rate rose from 77.8 percent the previous school year and 76.1 percent in 2006-07. Before that, the state used a different formula to calculate the rate, making comparisons impossible.
Nearly 19 percent of students did not graduate on time (four years after they began as freshmen), but the percentage of dropouts has fallen in each of the past two years, from 12 percent in 2007 to 8.7 percent in 2009, the state said.
Students who did not finish in four years but remained in school totaled 7.2 percent. Another 2.6 percent of students earned a General Educational Development diploma or a certificate for special education or course completion.
Indiana Secretary of Education Tony Bennett has made graduation rates a key measurement of his policies. He said last year he wants 90 percent of Indiana high schoolers to graduate on time by 2012.
Bennett will hold a press conference this morning to discuss the results.
In Marion County, 16 of 20 public high schools saw their graduation rates rise over 2008. However, seven of those schools graduated fewer than 60 percent of their students on time.