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Grant County sports strong grad rates

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

The Indiana Department of Education released the 2018 graduation rates last week, illustrating that most schools in the county were able to increase their waiver grad rates.

Four of the five public schools in the county topped the state waiver graduation rate which was at 88.11 percent - nearly a one percent increase from 2017 - with a non-waiver rate at 80.78 percent.

The waiver graduation rate reflects the percentage of all students who graduate, including those who do not complete all graduation requirements. The non-waiver graduation rate only includes students who completed all graduation requirements.

As far as the highest 2018 waiver graduation rate for public schools in Grant County, Mississinewa High School took the top spot with a 96.84 percent. This is a 2.27 percent increase from 2017.

Mississinewa High School Principal Steve Quaderer said they are happy, though reaching 100 percent will always be the goal.

He said the schools work hard to provide students with the best learning opportunities possible and to comprehensively prepare students for graduation from kindergarten on.

“We’re proud of our teachers, our students and our product put out as far as the opportunities the students get after they leave the high school … we’re proud of our grads and continue to work to get that percentage as close to 100 as we can,” Quaderer said.

The school’s non-waiver rate was at 83.68 percent.

Marion High School’s waiver graduation rate landed at 96.31 percent which went up .14 percent from 2017 and brought the high school to what Superintendent Brad Lindsay said is the highest rate in the school’s history. Marion’s non-waiver rate was at 72.13 percent.

Lindsay said he credits the success to a list of components, one being that a positive momentum has been building for the school since before he became superintendent. He said they have incrementally improved and it’s because of the community of parents, guardians and families, as well as mentors and programs from the City of Marion as a whole.

Secondly, Lindsay said the high school has team leaders for various subjects that collaborate and track each student individually to collect information on their involvement in school and any challenges they face, from the time they’re in eighth grade through graduation. He said the goal is to be intentional and proactive, starting at a young age for each student.

The superintendent said one of the most important things is to make school a place students want to be which can be seen through the extracurricular activities such as the growing music and JROTC programs.

“I think there’s a high correlation with more student participation … our attendance rate goes up and it gives students more of a reason to go to school and to do well in school,” he said.

Lindsay said he is pleased with the progress Marion Community Schools have made and that the ideal goal is to continue improvement, eventually reaching 100 percent.

Eastbrook High School’s waiver rate was at 96.03 percent, a .23 percent increase from 2017, with a non-waiver rate at 85.71 percent.

Eastbrook High School Principal Pat McLaughlin said he was pleased but not surprised by the end result, considering it’s in the ballpark of what the rate has been for years.

“I would say we’re always striving for 100 percent, and if we can get (students) in the door and to school on a regular basis, we have a good chance to see them graduate in their time here,” McLaughlin said.

He explained that a school improvement committee will continue looking into why they didn’t have 100 percent of students graduate, whether it was because they didn’t have enough credits or if they dropped out.

The next meeting for the committee is scheduled for later this month and will also look at the changing graduation pathways that will affect eighth graders on their way to high school and ultimately the graduation rate.

Madison-Grant High School’s waiver graduation rate was at 93.94 percent, a 3.76 percent decrease from last year, with an 84.85 percent rate for a non-waiver rate.

And like his colleagues across the county, Superintendent Scott Deetz would like to see that figure at 100 percent. So far, he said they have been diving into data to figure out the circumstances which prevented the approximate six percent of students from crossing the stage.

With what they have found so far, Deetz said the problems vary student by student and is not a systemwide issue..

In addition, when they have looked at the graduation rates between special education and non-special education students, they found that there is less than a one percent difference. They also looked at rates among students with free or reduced lunch in comparison with those who are not on free or reduced lunch and found that again, there was only a one percent difference.

That being said, Deetz said they are condifent they have been differentiating education to meet the needs of varying populations.

He said they will now look at how to create support to help get students who are at risk of not graduating across the stage with their classmates.

“Honestly, 100 percent is attainable. It’s not often we get to stay that in this world but our expectation is every student succeeds,” Deetz said.

Deetz added that the schools have quality personnel that are intentional about getting to know students inside and outside of the classroom which helps them reach success.

Oak Hill’s 2018 waiver graduation rate was at 84.48 percent, an 11.44 percent decrease, with a non-waiver rate at 79.31 percent.

Principal Shawn Means explained that out of the 116 students that graduated, they had approximately 18 students within the cohort that counted against the graduation rate.

Out of those 18, six of the students were on a non-diploma track who were instead awarded certificate completion. These students are typically those who are special education and are unable to complete the Core 40 requirements.

While those students did complete high school and the number doesn't affect the dropout rate, Means said because of how the graduation rate is figured, the state counts those numbers against the overall graduation rate. Means said they don't usually have as many graduating students who receive certificate completion, which is why the rate was lower than usual.

Some homeschool students were also coded incorrectly upon entering into Oak Hill which also affected the way the rate, Means added. 

Means said they were expecting the rate to be lower this year, but had thought it would've been closer to 90 percent. Superintendent Joel Martin said, historically, they have been in the 95-96 percent range and believes with their staff and programming, they are capable of continuing that trend or doing even better.

Means said the goal is to be back up between 90 and 95 percent next year. 

For a full spreadsheet of 2018 Indiana school graduation rates, visit www.doe.in.gov/accountability/find-school-and-corporation-data-reports.