SODA's principal questions PED's first graduation-rate calculations

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Mike Ogas, principal and co-founder of the School of Dreams Academy in Los Lunas, is disappointed by the school's first graduation rate as calculated by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

The PED released the 2013 high school graduation rates last week, and SODA received a 41.4 percent rate based on a four-year cohort.

Ogas said SODA's graduation rate was calculated with other public schools, but the Los Lunas charter school is a Supplemental Accountability Model school, meaning there is a different formula to calculate its graduation rates.

After speaking with PED officials, the principal believes the graduation rate at SODA will increase after it is recalculated.

"The cohort is an interesting thing because students in New Mexico can leave school, they can come back and be placed in a cohort," Ogas said. "A year ago, I wrote the PED and said it doesn't make sense to me that a student can actually drop out twice and be counted as a dropout twice."

He's not sure how the state calculated SODA's graduation rate because the school also houses a Graduate New Mexico night-school program.

"To me, it's a separate thing, but on that state number, it's not," Ogas said. "That state number groups them all together. I can almost understand why schools would shy away from having any type of credit recovery program because you run the risk of doing that."

In 2012, SODA had three early graduates and four credit-recovery graduates. Last year, the school had five credit-recovery graduates, and out of about 32 freshmen who have been with the school for four years, 27 graduated in 2013.

That would appear to be a higher graduation rate, Ogas said.

Night-class students must be enrolled at the school in order to participate in the Graduate New Mexico program. If the state is including those students in calculating SODA's graduation rate, that can skew the numbers because credit-recovery students can be very mobile due to life issues, Ogas said.

"We have made the commitment to the community to try to help people move forward — give them an opportunity to get a diploma even if this might be their third or fourth chance," he said.

"On the back side, we look at the way the state counts things. I think people need to understand that it's not like we had this number of freshman four years ago and only 40 percent of that number graduated."

He would like the state to calculate two separate graduation rates: one for SODA students and one for the Graduate New Mexico students.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.