December 05, 2017
There were all sorts of noises coming from the students in the auditorium at Lincoln High School – raised voices, non-stop chatter — sounds most school administrators typically frown on, especially when hosting the mayor and the superintendent of schools.
But not on this occasion.
That’s because there was something worthy of celebrating, not just at Lincoln but throughout the entire School District of Philadelphia, which on Thursday celebrated an increase in its graduation rate for the third straight year. The rate, which includes alternative schools, jumped 1 percentage point to 67 percent.
“Increased graduation rates means more Philadelphia students are on the path to successfully completing high school with the skills needed to enter college or the workforce,” said Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite. “While we continue to increase in our graduation rate we must also continue to make a School District of Philadelphia diploma as valuable as possible. That is why we are investing in 9th grade academies improving advance placement opportunities, and increasing access for all students to higher performing school options.”
With a drum line behind them and leaping cheerleaders off to the right, Hite was seated at a balloon-adorned table with Mayor Jim Kenney, Councilman Bobby Henon, Lincoln Principal Jack Nelson, student-body president Megan Smith and student senator Justice Passe.
Among district students who entered the ninth grade in 2013-14, 78 percent of them graduated in four years, an increase of 4 percent over the last year. All told, 31 high schools across the District saw improvements in their graduation rate.
As a whole, Philadelphia still lags other large cities. Chicago graduated 78 percent of its 2017 seniors, Los Angeles 77 percent, and New York city 73 percent.
The announcement came at Lincoln because the school experienced one of the largest gains, 12 percentage points to 79 percent, in its graduation rate over the last year. The rate has risen in every year under Nelson, who is in his third year as Lincoln’s principal.
“Through parental support, staff dedication and student determination of credit accountability, I am proud that Lincoln High School has significantly increased its graduation rate,” said Nelson, a graduate of Germantown High School. “These are just some of the many steps we are taking to make our school community a welcoming environment so that students are not only college and career ready, but life ready as well.”
In recent years, more than 24 schools have been closed and more than 4,000 school district employees laid off. The teachers’ union earlier this year signed its first contract after working five years without one.
“This accomplishment is even more significant when you look back at all the cuts our graduating students have had to endure during their academic careers. Over the last several years, the District has had to make hundreds of millions in cuts,” Kenney said. “And they persevered through those cuts, we cannot expect Dr. Hite, our teachers or our students to take the incremental progress we’ve seen over the three years and expand it into greater success while enduring another cycle of cuts.”