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Graduation rate up? Let’s check the math

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Rio Rancho city officials often tout the quality of public schools as a selling point, and the latest graduation rates seem to bolster that claim.

However, there is confusion about the figures released Friday, and Rio Rancho Public Schools officials say they plan to discuss the findings with the state.

The Public Education Department reported that Rio Rancho’s districtwide graduation rate for 2013 was 84 percent, compared to a statewide average of 70.3 percent.

The 84 percent figure is a healthy increase over the 2012 districtwide rate, which was 78.8 percent.

“I think Rio Rancho’s school system, in challenging times, has done everything in its power to ensure kids get quality time with teachers to keep those scores up,” Mayor Tom Swisstack said.

He said quality of education is the No. 1 issue companies ask about when they consider locating in the city.

However, while the districtwide figure rose, that increase was not reflected in the figures for Rio Rancho’s two largest, comprehensive high schools.

The PED reported a 2013 graduation rate of 91.1 percent for Cleveland and 80.1 percent for Rio Rancho High. The Cleveland rate was one percentage point higher than 2012, when 90.1 percent of students graduated. Rio Rancho High saw a 3.3 percentage point drop from 2012, when its graduation rate was 83.4 percent.

Cleveland High opened in 2009, and last year was its first year with a graduating class.

Independence High, an alternative school that serves many at-risk students, saw a slight decline, from 51.5 percent in 2012 to 50.8 percent last year.

The small Cyber Academy, an alternative school that provides online learning, saw its graduation rate leap from 67.8 percent in 2012 to 93.9 percent in 2013.

Associate Superintendent Carl Leppelman was unable to explain why the district rate increased, despite the results at the two largest schools.

“It could be that Cyber affected the overall percentage, but I really couldn’t tell you why,” Leppelman said. “The data is very preliminary, and we will be contacting the Public Education Department to verify the numbers.”

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