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Grad rates released

May 29, 2013

Bruce Jennings‚ Bremen High School principal

INDIANAPOLIS — The state released the official 2012 graduation rates earlier this month, after the time for school district appeals had ended.
For schools in Marshall County, the results were mostly positive.
“The graduation rates that were released today were the official rates after there was an opportunity to appeal previous numbers released by the Indiana Department of Education,” said Bruce Jennings‚ Bremen High School principal.
“We were grateful for this appeal because some of our foreign exchange students were inadvertently recorded as part of the 2012 cohort group when, in fact, they should have been removed from the cohort group prior to the graduation rate calculation process.”
Once the appeal was completed and approved, Bremen earned a rate of 96.2 percent. The rate is based on a graduate count of 126 students from the Class of 2012 and includes no waivers. It also represents an increase above last year by about nine percentage points. The 2011 rate was 87.8, with a 92.3 percent rate earned by the 2010 graduating class.
The state released the official 2012 graduation rates on May 13.
Plymouth High School also logged an improvement above last year’s results.
“Our graduation rates have been improving the last five years,” said Dan Tyree, Plymouth Community Schools Corp. superintendent. “Last year our graduation rate was 88 and this year it’s 91.6. That’s over a 3 percent increase and in the statistical world, that is significant.”
These rates are right on the money, as far as the statewide picture is concerned. In 2012, Indiana’s state rate was 88.38.
This was an increase from 2011, which had 86.61 percent of the state’s high school students graduating in eight years.
Statewide, the Indiana graduation rate in 2012 was 88.38 percent, up from 86.61 percent in 2011. The federal rate was 87 percent.
The rates were also cause for celebration at Triton. The official rate for Triton is 93 percent.
“Our graduation rate has gone up each of the last few years,” said Donna Burroughs, superintendent.
Argos, which posted one of the lowest scores among the school districts serving Marshall County still showed an increase above the 2011 results.
At a school board meeting in April, Superintendent Jennifer Lucht told board members the district was appealing the previously calculated score.
With the official release, Argos’ rate was 81.1 percent –almost a 9 percentage point improvement above the previous year. The school had a graduating class of 43 last year.
Smaller schools, like Argos can have a wide fluctuation in rates year to year because of student counts, Christopher Winchell, the assistant principal at John Glenn High School said.
“In a school like ours of 600 students and a graduating class of 140–150 students, a change in percentage points is probably due to only a couple of students,” Winchell said.
The school’s graduation rate was down a few percentage points this year, but at 94.9 percent, it is well above the national and state averages.
“In some circles, Plymouth would be considered a big school. In other circles, we would be a small school,” Tyree said. “So, I think size is just perspective. I don’t think the size of one’s school has anything to do about graduation rates.”
Jennings agreed.
“What’s more important than school size is whether or not the people in the school can partner with the entire community to proactively pursue, prod, and push all students to graduate. Sure it’s important to have resources that make learning fun and relevant for the students; however, face-to-face mentoring and encouragement is how we hope to improve our graduation rates. Can we sustain the 96.2 percent each year? I don’t know. But, it won’t be for a lack of effort from the staff members of Bremen High School.”
Even with the yearly fluctuations, Marshall County public school districts take these rates seriously. This is one of the calculations used by the state and the federal government to determine the district’s grade and measure whether the schools meet state and federal growth standards.
“Our high school staff has worked hard to keep students in school and make each one of them feel like school is a good place to be,” Tyree said. “The biggest factor in graduation rates is the relationships formed by teachers and their students. Students want to know that their teachers care about them. When students know that, they will be more apt to stay in school.
“For some students, graduating from high school is not the normal thing for their family,” Tyree continued. “So, in today’s world graduating from high school is a big accomplishment for some students. Our philosophy has been to keep students from falling through the cracks.”
At John Glenn, the school has approached improving graduation rates by identifying and helping students who may be struggling. These are the students who are most likely to drop out.
Winchell said this academic emphasis has focused on math and reading, with math and English labs, mentoring and class scheduling that keeps algebra skills fresh from level one to level two. But one of the most important things the district does is take action quickly to help a student.
“The idea behind Response to Intervention or as some refer to it Response to Instruction, is when you see a student is struggling, you provide intervention,” Winchell said. “Don’t wait until the student is in a hole.”
One of the intervention techniques is a mentoring program where high school instructors will take two or three students under their wing. This gives the student extra help and forges a closer relationship between the teachers and students.
Most school administrators agree that the responsibility for keeping students in school does not fall on the shoulders of the high school staff alone.
“The Triton staff from kindergarten through the senior year is focused on each student as an individual and does – whatever it takes – to help each child succeed,” Burroughs said. “Smaller schools allow for more individual attention for students and strong relationships with the staff over longer periods of time.”
Developing these skills early, especially reading, is key, Winchell said.
“A student is not going to pass history or any other course by reading a high school level textbook at a third grade reading level,” Winchell said.
But there are other perspectives on how to make students stay in school and graduate with their peers.
“From kindergarten, our teachers show our students that they really care about them,” Tyree said. “To me, that’s what’s important.”
“I want to emphasize that it’s not programs, but rather the people that we have in place that make a difference,” Jennings said. “We are blessed to have a very caring staff of adults, and our students support each other. That’s what makes the difference.
“We try to develop strong partnerships with parents, and we work hard at encouraging students to show up consistently, get their work done consistently, and get connected, somehow, to the school by fining their niche.”

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