Local graduation rates a mixed trend

TRI-CITIES - Less than one month and counting. If the endless college applications and acceptance letters are any indication, graduation season is almost here. KEPR learned it really is a mixed bag when it comes to local graduation rates.

Graduation may be just weeks away, but for Sierra Turpen -- it couldn't come soon enough.

"Staying up late, not getting sleep, I'm living - it's fine! Life goes on," said graduating senior Sierra Turpen.

Sierra says it's a busy time. She and her friends spent their Saturday morning working at a fundraiser. They tell Action News the increasing pressure to get into a good college keeps them motivated.

"It's really hard. You have to work hard to get everything in order," said Turpen.

So hard -- Sierra says some of her friends have quit high school altogether.

"There's been a couple pregnancy dropouts and things like that," added Turpen.

Some, she says, have pulled through. It's why she was interested to hear graduation rates are showing a mixed trend. Pasco and Kennewick dropped a few percentage points between the class of 2010 and 2011. Over in Richland, the rate rose to 80% year over year. That makes it the only Tri-City district to sit above the statewide rate.

The mix of trends in the overall graduation numbers comes as there's a decrease in the dropout rate in the Tri-Cities. For example, Kennewick had a 6.3% dropout rate in 2007. In 2011, that stood at 2.9%.

Older rates that use a different measuring method show fluctuation. Pasco dropped slightly between 2008 and 2009. Kennewick and Richland showed increases over the same time period.

To Sierra, district numbers represent her friend's stories. Hoping those struggling will be encouraged by stories of success.

"It's impressive. People's motivation is really impressive," emphasized Turpen.

Curbing dropout rates is exactly what programs like Fast Forward target. Schools like Tri-Tech and New Horizon also offer childcare for teen moms in school.