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Tulsa Public Schools sees higher graduation rate, more proficiency in third-grade reading

Tulsa Public Schools sees higher graduation rate, more proficiency in third-grade reading


Tulsa Public Schools saw improvements in its graduation rate and third-grade reading proficiency last school year.

Administrators presented their annual State of the District presentation at Monday night’s school board meeting. The report lacked some of its usual statistics, such as percentage of students meeting SAT college readiness benchmarks, due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s interference with the end of the 2019-20 school year. There were no state- or district-level spring assessments to provide updated data on student academic performance.

But TPS did complete winter MAP testing earlier in the semester, helping the district to publish 11 scorecard measurements, eight of which saw an improvement from the previous year.

The senior graduation rate was 78.8%, compared to 74.9% in 2018-19. That’s a significant improvement from five years ago, when the four-year graduation rate was 67.5%. The increase in graduation rate from 2015 to 2019 represents approximately 250 more graduates.

“This is the highest graduation rate that we’ve seen for the past several years,” said Sean Berkstresser, director of data strategy at TPS. “That’s really great news, especially if we’re aspiring to prepare students for success not only in TPS but after they leave TPS. Graduation is a really critical milestone.”

Meanwhile, third-grade reading proficiency improved from 33% in 2018-19 to 37% in 2019-20, falling just short of the district’s goal of 39% for the year.

The percentage of students meeting their projected reading growth increased from 46% two years ago to 49% last year. The goal was 51%. For projected math growth, the percentage increased from 49% to 53%, surpassing the goal by two percentage points.

Berkstresser said he’s happy to see these numbers trend in a positive direction, though he also knows that disruptions from distance learning could jeopardize their sustainability.

“It’s something that is keeping K-12 educators across the country up at night, honestly,” he said. “Especially districts that were seeing great growth last year and were on the right track. How big of a disruption is this going to be?”

Berkstresser also highlighted an improvement in the district’s novice teacher retention rate, which went from 76.5% in 2018-19 to 77.7% in 2019-20 despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Average daily attendance declined from 91.7% to 91.1%, which falls shy of the district’s goal of 91.9%. The chronic absenteeism rate increased from 28.8% to 30.5%, which is considerably higher than the district’s 26.8% goal.

The suspension rate decreased from 7% to 6.6%, not quite beating the district’s goal of 6.4%.

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Kyle Hinchey


Twitter: @KyleHinchey

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School board members originally were slated to vote on Superintendent Deborah Gist’s recommendation calling for students to return to the classroom gradually through a hybrid learning model for the second nine weeks of the 2020-21 school year. But after several hours of discussion, most — if not all — rejected the idea of replacing distance learning with a hybrid model.

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