Superintendent says new state graduation stats don’t tell the whole story
Chris Lindholm

Superintendent says new state graduation stats don’t tell the whole story

The Minnesota Department of Education released the Minnesota Report Card for 2023, which includes graduation rates for schools across the state. The statewide graduation rate last school year dropped very slightly from 83.6% to 83.3% ,compared to the year before.

The graduation rate at Cook County High School rose from 75.7% in 2022 to 82.5% in 2023. However, ISD 166 Superintendent Chris Lindholm told WTIP that while graduation rate statistics are important on a large scale, for smaller districts, those statistics may not be a complete reflection of school and student performance.

Lindholm said that because the school is so small, each student constitutes 2-5% of the data.  He said, “One student not being accounted for in the data can skew that percentage by a lot. So here in Cook County, the percentage or the trend of the percentage is really less of a relevant thing.”

He said that “unaccounted for students” includes kids who began high school within ISD 166, but who moved away or left the school, and who haven’t been counted at another public Minnesota high school. This means that until those students’ records are corrected at the state level, they are reflected in the Cook County graduation data. According to Lindholm, last year’s data included 6 students who were considered unaccounted for, and that 33 of the Seniors at Cook County Senior High graduated, and one was continuing their high school education. No students dropped out.

Lindholm also said that the graduation statistics tend to focus on just the four year graduation rates, which doesn’t reflect as accurately the way that students finish their secondary schooling. He pointed to students who may take an additional year or pursue a GED as students who may not be reflected in the four year rates, but who bring the graduation rate up when the data includes five, six, or seven year rates.

The takeaway from this data, according to Lindholm, is that it only tells part of the story. He said, “I filter it carefully. I don’t get too excited about it. Because I know there’s inaccuracies in the data overall.”

Lindholm said that the benefit of a small school is that individual needs can be recognized, and that the staff know all of the students. He said that district-wide, the schools are working to make students’ experiences more individualized in order to best meet their needs.

WTIP’s Kirsten Wisniewski spoke with ISD 166 Superintendent Chris Lindholm about the 2023 Minnesota Report Card released by the Department of Education. Audio from the interview is below