Grand Forks' high school graduation rate edges higher than state rate

It's barely higher, but in recent years, the local graduation rate was slightly lower than the state average.

Grand Forks Central High School graduates celebrate at the conclusion of the 2019 ceremony. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The four-year graduation rate for Grand Forks public high schools, at 89% in 2018-19, is slightly higher than the state as a whole, according to information available on the updated “education dashboard” managed by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

Students in the Grand Forks district last year also performed slightly better in math and English assessment exams than North Dakota high school students generally, the dashboard reveals.

Information of this type, and a new year’s worth of state data on school performance and accountability, has been integrated into the North Dakota education dashboard website, state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced recently.

The information is gathered, reviewed and later vetted again by the school districts themselves before it becomes part of the dashboard, Baesler said in a news release. The newest information is from the 2018-19 school year.

The dashboard allows members of the public to look up information, organized into various categories and by school, school district, and the state level. For example, North Dakota State Assessment results in mathematics, science and English are available, as are the results for the ACT college entrance examination, which is taken in high school.


The education dashboard, which can be found at , provides information about school enrollment, demographics, graduation rates and absenteeism; improvement in student assessment results; and the results of engagement surveys, which measure levels of student enthusiasm about their education.

Grand Forks' graduation rate of 89% is slightly better than the state rate of 88%, but an improvement of 3 percentage points over each of the last two years of local data. In both 2017-18 and 2016-17 the local rate was 86%, which was slightly lower than the state rate those years.

The Grand Forks district’s average cost per pupil rose from $11,200 in 2013-14 to $12,311 in 2017-18. In that time frame, the statewide average cost per pupil rose from $10,500 to $11,606. The vast majority of the cost, at state and local levels, is for employee salaries and benefits.

In the 2018-19 school year, student enrollment in the Grand Forks school district was 69% white, 9% black, 7% Hispanic, 6% Native American and 5% Asian American.

Enrollment in Grand Forks public schools has steadily climbed each school year from 7,245 in 2013-14 to 7,590 in 2017-18, then dipping to 7,457 in 2018-19, according to the dashboard.

In the 2018-19 school year, the attendance rate of 94% at Grand Forks public schools lagged slightly behind the state rate of 95%. The local high school dropout rate, at 1%, was half the state rate. The dropout rate for the district and the state was 2% for 2017-18 and 2016-17.

Statewide data show an increase in the on-time graduation rate -- or graduation after four years of high school -- from 87% in 2016-17 to 88.5% in 2018-19, and an increase in the “completer rate,” or rate of high school completion with a general education degree, from 88% in 2016-17 to 92% in 2018-19.

“The dashboard offers North Dakotans a one-stop location to review important information about the performance of their public schools,” Baesler said in her department's release. “Our taxpayers invest about $1 billion annually in our public school system, and they deserve easy access to information about how well it is working.


“We expect to make future improvements to our dashboard, and add even more information to it. We also welcome suggestions about what types of information North Dakotans would like to know about their schools, so we can add it to the dashboard.”

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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