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Top grads
Indiana is tied with five other states for the third-highest graduation rate in the nation
First: Iowa; 88 percent
Second: Vermont, Wisconsin; 87 percent
Third: Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas; 86 percent
North Side High School graduating seniors attend commencement in 2010. Indiana’s high school graduation rate is third best in the nation.

A school success story

Here’s the best news you never heard this week: Indiana students have the third-highest graduation rate in the nation.

The federal education department’s ranking method bases rates on students who enter school as ninth-graders and graduate within four years. The approach allows for direct comparison among states, but it still under-represents actual graduation success. There are students who need more time because of illness or injury – not every student who doesn’t graduate in four years is a high school dropout.

Great news, right? The U.S. Department of Education releases the first-ever apples-to-apples comparison of statewide grad rates, and Indiana finishes near the top with an 86 percent rate.

So why isn’t it worthy of mention by the Indiana Department of Education, which last week hyped increased school-voucher enrollment?

•Because the current administration knows better than to claim credit for the distinction, which is based on performance of the class of 2011. Progress comes from the deliberate, effective work done by former state schools chief Suellen Reed, her administration and educators across the state and is not tied to the costly, unproven school approaches approved by the General Assembly in the most recent years.

•Because evidence of school success does not justify efforts to turn over public schools to for-profit turnaround operators or to send tax dollars to low-performing charter schools or private and parochial schools with little accountability or oversight. How can you frame public schools as “failing” when they are doing nothing of the sort?

Indiana’s statewide rate tops No. 41 Florida’s rate by 15 percentage points, even as the administration hails that state as its model in so-called education reform. The District of Columbia – long a playground for the reform crowd – finished last with a rate of 59 percent.

The graduation rate for black students in Indiana is 75 percent – higher than top-ranked Iowa’s 73 percent rate for black students.

Each of the districts in Allen County recorded a 2011 graduation rate higher than the statewide average. Both Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools posted a rate of 88.1 percent, while Northwest Allen was at 95.5 percent and Southwest Allen at 92.5 percent. Adams Central Community Schools had the highest rate in northeast Indiana, 96.5 percent.

Congratulations to the students, parents and educators whose hard work over many years is showing great results. State officials might not give you credit, but we will.