Recently the School District Board of Trustees revised their mission statement to ensure that it reflected what is truly important: that every child graduates. In entering these discussions, it was important to emphasize that graduation is not simply a high school issue, but rests with all grades, schools and the community as a whole.

After careful consideration, the mission statement was revised to read: "Every child will graduate; beginning with Kindergarten, each will be prepared and confident to succeed." So if this is truly our mission, where are we right now? Clearly, we have room to improve.

Several months ago, we were provided information relative to graduation rates for Humboldt County for the 2012-2013 school year. The percentage that we obtained was identified as 67 percent. Though this is far from where we wish to be, it represented a 4 percent increase in graduation rates from the previous year. Though we assume full ownership of graduation rates, I have frequently been asked how graduation rates are calculated.

Graduation rates are based on a "cohort" analysis. So for the class of 2014, the process used to determine graduation rates is based on a complex formula. In simple terms, the formula operates as follows:

(2014 Graduates with a Regular or Honors Diploma) divided by ((# Freshman 2011) + (newly enrolled potential 2014 graduates in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014) - (Verified potential 2014 graduates that left Humboldt)) = Graduation rate

In order to receive either a regular or honors diploma, students must have completed all credit requirements and have passed the high school proficiencies in math, reading, writing and science. In the past, students who failed to complete one or more of the requirements was assigned a "certificate of attendance"; however, students under this category are not counted towards graduation rates.

So, using the above formula, we'll use the following fictitious calculation:

170 graduates / (200 freshman) + (100 new enrollments) - (50 verified transfers) = 170/250 = 68%

Being a community that sees high levels of transiency, one challenge we have faced is relative to the "verified transfers out." Though there are students who literally "drop out" of school, students who homeschool, move to another state, or enter a charter school may also be counted as a dropout if we cannot verify their status, meaning verify they have "enrolled" in a new program.

As a district, we have made graduation rates our highest priority. This emphasis is reflected in the commitment to critical academic programs, such as funding full-day kindergarten, implementing comprehensive professional development, committing to credit remediation and recovery programs, and refocusing our commitment to student success.

In addition, we have implemented a more effective tracking system to account for students who transfer out of the district to other locations or programs. The emphasis on effective tracking is intended to ensure that we accurately reflect what is truly happening in Humboldt County School District. Though we have room for improvement, I am proud of the efforts and quality of instruction that is being demonstrated. Each site is actively seeking ways to improve instructional practices to increase academic performance.

We are confident that this unified effort will provide significant benefits in the upcoming years. In addition, pending graduation requirements will also have impacts on graduation rates.

Just recently, the Nevada State Board of Education met to finalize graduation requirements. Current 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students will be required to continue to meet current graduation requirements. This includes passing the proficiency examinations.

For current 8th and 9th grade students, they will be part of a pilot program working towards validation of new end-of-course examinations. These end-of-course examinations will consistent of exams in four specific areas during the 9th and 10th grade years.

Students who are in the pilot program will not be required to pass these examinations to meet graduation requirements. Rather, students in these two groups will only be required to meet the credit requirements while assisting with the validation process.

Current 7th grade students and beyond will be under the new requirements. This transitionary period will be a time of significant change as we try to understand and implement the new requirements as defined by the state.

Regardless of the changes that are coming, we are committed to the success of every child. As we continue this focus, we look forward to increased graduation rates and the preparation of every student to meet the ever-changing expectations.

Dr. David Jensen is superintendent of schools and can be reached at (775) 623-8196 or at