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Thursday, July 10, 2014

New Hampshire non-graduates find routes toward diplomas

TINA FORBES

Staff Writer

Graduation is a transition time for students. The majority receive diplomas and move on to work or go to college.

A handful of seniors opt for earning their high school equivalency certificate. ...

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Graduation is a transition time for students. The majority receive diplomas and move on to work or go to college.

A handful of seniors opt for earning their high school equivalency certificate.

And then there are a few who call it quits, who are counted as dropouts, and get counted in a statistic that is closely watched by local and state school officials.

Nashua had some positive results this year. The latest data on 2013 graduation rates showed an average of 89.36 percent of students graduated, between Nashua High School North and South. Meanwhile, the national rate was celebrated in April as reaching 80 percent (using recently released 2012 federal data).

On a state level, Nashua also graduated students above the state average of 87.85 percent in 2013. The district also beat the state dropout rate with 2.40 percent, to New Hampshire’s 2.91 percent.

The state HiSet (formerly known as GED) recipient rate for 2013 was 2.5 percent, with Nashua’s at 0.3 percent.

However, these numbers don’t always add up to 100 percent. There are some students who don’t graduate, receive GEDs or dropout. In some cases, it’s a larger category than GED recipients and dropouts combined.

For instance, in 2013, Merrimack High School had 19 GED recipient and 5 dropouts from a class of 370 – but only 316 made it to graduation. That left 30 students unaccounted for; or 8.11 percent of the entire senior class.

New Hampshire schools must track their students and can’t report them as a statistical zero.

For example, Michael Schwartz of the New Hampshire Department of Education broke down Merrimack’s numbers: 25 students remained enrolled at MHS past their senior year, and five graduated without a regular diploma.

As for Nashua, it’s encouraging to see the district’s dropout rates below the national average, but it’s just as important to note there are opportunities available for students who don’t graduate on schedule.

This year, Nashua High School North graduated 360 seniors and NHS South graduated 402. An additional 36 students at South and 31 at North did not graduate, although most of them have plans toward a diploma or equivalency, according to district Superintendent Mark Conrad.

A total of 22 non-graduates, 12 at South and 10 at North, plan to return to high school for another year to complete credits toward their diplomas. The next largest group includes 18 students – 10 from South and 8 from North – who plan to graduate with an adult education diploma this summer. Another 11 – six South students and five North students – intend to enroll in adult education this fall. A handful of non-grads will be seeking their HiSet equivalency diploma; four from South and five from North.

The final seven; four from South and three from North, have not made specific education plans toward a diploma or equivalency certificate.

The state Department of Education typically won’t publish an official tally of non-graduate dropouts until the following spring. The 2013 dropout rate of 2.40 percent will represent the Nashua district until then.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402 or tforbes@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Forbes on Twitter (@Telegraph_TinaF).