LPS graduation rates rise for all high schools after five year trend of declines

Newly released data shows about 2,500 LPS seniors graduated in 2022, up from about 2,360 in 2021.
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 5:45 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A high school diploma unlocks the door to new opportunities. From college to first jobs, trade programs, and a sense of accomplishment.

In Lincoln this year, more Lincoln Public Schools students are reaching that milestone and closing the book on their K through 12 education, changing the trend of dropping graduation rates in the district.

Newly released data shows about 2,500 LPS seniors graduated in 2022, up from about 2,360 in 2021. The district said this is not an accident, as they’ve been working to invest more time and money into helping teens get diplomas.

“It gives me goosebumps,” said Keri Applebee the principal at Lincoln Northeast High School.

Applebee has been attending graduations for years, and the effect is always the same.

“To watch those kiddos cross that line and to know so many of their stories,” Applebee said. “For some, it was easier than others but it’s a wonderful celebration.”

Last year, educators like Applebee celebrated a little more. The Nebraska Department of Education for your graduation rate shows LPS’ rate jumped nearly 2% from last year, from 80.5% to 82.35.

“This is the first time in recent memory that all six of our high schools have shown gains the first year and in a pretty significant way,” said Dr. Sarah Salem with the district.

Lincoln Southwest has the highest graduation rate of 92.7% of students and Northeast has the lowest at 74.7%. However, Northeast saw the biggest jump of 4.2% last year.

“We’ve gotten really intentional over the last couple of years using our data and letting that data inform the work we do with students to really try and support and boost them,” Applebee said.

Applebee also mentioned a few programs that she believes have helped, including a class that teaches study skills and a college-prep program called AVID that targets kids who are getting Cs and Ds and helps meet their needs.

Salem said the increases can also be attributed to some additional funding.

“With ESSER dollars based on the pandemic we were able to put interventionists into every school,” Salem said. “We had staff monitoring attendance who could reach out to families.”

But there’s still work to be done. LPS has a lower graduation rate than the state average of 87.2% through the state rate dropping from last year. There are also racial disparities in graduation rates, with American Indian, black, Latino, and students of two or more races earning their diploma less than the average rate. Among American Indian students in 2022, only 41.4% of 29 students graduated.

“This is one of the reasons we put our All Means All Action Plan in place last year,” Salem said. “Because this is something we know and we’re working on. We did see some improvements in a number of our demographic groups but we are well aware there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Some of the ways All Means All Plan aims at increasing graduation rates among all students, includes increasing trauma-informed practices, diversifying staff, ensuring all students have access to apply for honors courses, and reducing the disparities in suspensions.