High school graduation is a critical milestone for students as it has implications for future opportunity and success on both individual and societal levels. In Puerto Rico recent changes in how high school graduation rates are calculated have drawn closer attention to the issue of high school graduation and thus a growing interest in understanding the relationship between Puerto Rico's high school characteristics and graduation rates. This report presents findings from a correlational study of high school characteristics and high school graduation in Puerto Rico. Using data from the Puerto Rico Department of Education and publicly available data about the cohort of grade 10 students who entered Puerto Rico high schools during the 2010/11 school year, the study analyzed the correlation between graduation rates and two types of variables. The two types of variables are school-level student composition variables and school characteristic variables. School-level student composition variables refer to characteristics that are not amenable to intervention by educators (for example, the percentage of students who are male), and school characteristic variables refer to characteristics that can be changed or, in other words, that are amenable to intervention (for example, the student-teacher ratio). The study then estimated the conditional association between these characteristics and on-time graduation (within three years) using regression analyses to control for other factors. The key findings associated with school characteristics--those amenable to intervention--are: (1) Puerto Rico high schools with a higher percentage of students who were proficient in Spanish language arts had higher graduation rates overall and for all students subgroups examined (male students, female students, students living in poverty, and students in special education). These relationships were also found after other school characteristics were controlled for; (2) High schools with higher percentages of students who were proficient in math had higher graduation rates for all students and for all student subgroups except female students. However, the relationships were not apparent after other school characteristics were controlled for; (3) High schools with lower student-teacher ratios had higher rates of graduation overall and for all subgroups. After other school characteristics were controlled for, the relationships were still found for male students, students living in poverty, and students in special education but not for all students or for female students; and (4) Contrary to the expectation that having more qualified teachers in a school would result in higher graduation rates, this study found that high schools with lower percentages of highly qualified teachers--teachers who attain full state (regular) certification in the subject taught--had higher graduation rates for all students and for all subgroups except male students. After other school characteristics were controlled for, schools with fewer highly qualified teachers still had higher graduation rates overall and for male students, students living in poverty, and students in special education. These findings provide a starting point for Puerto Rico stakeholders interested in data-driven decision-making to address the low rates of graduation in their high schools and communities. Two strategies that might be helpful in raising graduation rates are: (1) Implementing interventions to increase the percentage of students who score at the proficient level in assessments of Spanish language arts; and (2) Lowering the student-teacher ratio for students living in poverty and students in special education. The findings of this study may also be useful for educators and researchers interested in understanding on-time high school graduation rates in U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico, where research has been limited and information on graduation trends remains scarce. A section on Data and Methodology is appended.
ERIC DescriptorsAcademic Achievement, Correlation, Gender Differences, Grade 10, Graduation, Graduation Rate, High School Students, Institutional Characteristics, Intervention, Poverty, Regression (Statistics), Socioeconomic Status, Special Education, Student Characteristics, Student Diversity, Student Records, Teacher Certification, Teacher Qualifications, Teacher Student Ratio
Northeast & Islands | Publication Type:
Descriptive Study | Publication
Date: April 2017