Kzoo Promise 12 years later: HS grad rates climb, still lag state

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo Public Schools report the district’s 2018 graduation rate was its highest yet, though it still hasn’t caught up to the state average.

Last year, Kalamazoo’s rate rose to 75.2 percent, compared to the state’s average of 80.6 percent.

Still, the district has made solid strides, raising grad rates 12 points in less than a decade.

The rate in 2010, the year President Barak Obama visited, was 63.1 percent.

“It’s probably far from where anybody wants it,” said Von Washington Jr., referring to last year’s rate. “You know we want everybody graduating. We want everybody to be able access education in a way that helps them move their life forward.”

Washington, who was principal at Kalamazoo Central High school when Obama visited, is now executive director of community relations at the Promise.

“When looking at the Kalamazoo Promise and the fact that it’s human capital investment — that takes time,” Washington Jr. said.

Preparing high schoolers for college requires more than tuition coverage.

“Many students still have the same challenges they had before the scholarship,” said Washington Jr. from the Promise’s office in downtown Kalamazoo. “Whether it’s food insecurity, housing insecurity or growing up in abject poverty.”

The 2018 graduation rate for KPS aligns with rates from other similar urban districts around the state:

  • Saginaw: 79.4 percent
  • Kalamazoo: 75.2 percent
  • Grand Rapids: 71.3 percent
  • Flint: 66.8 percent
  • Lansing: 64.3 percent 

Washington Jr. said the Kalamazoo Promise is working as well to improve college graduation rates of Promise students.

The rate in 2018 was 47 percent compared to 40 percent in 2015.

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