Three Jackson County high schools saw their graduation rates drop in 2015, but most remained above state average.
Seymour High School, the county’s biggest high school, had a 95.1 percent graduation rate, which was 1.4 points lower than the 2014 rate of 96.5 percent.
The state average for the Class of 2015 was 88.9 percent, according to information released Friday by the Indiana Department of Education.
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Principal Greg Prange said he isn’t too disappointed by the decline, however, because the rate was still above state average and above 95 percent.
“Obviously, I’m not happy that our percent dropped, but slight fluctuations are expected at times,” he said. “Especially since we’ve closed the gap as much as we have over the years.”
Brownstown Central High School increased its rate, climbing 2.5 points from 93.8 percent graduating in 2014 to 96.3 percent last year.
Principal Joe Sheffer said he was pleased by his school’s performance and praised faculty and staff’s efforts to reach as many students as possible to get them to graduate.
“The credit goes to our teachers and guidance counselors who are willing to work with students who are on the verge of not graduating,” he said.
Medora, which graduated 100 percent of its seniors in 2013 and 2014, fell 4.8 points to 95.2 percent in 2015. Medora is the smallest high school in the county and second smallest public school corporation in the state.
Principal Chrystal Street said although its rate dropped, Medora continues to strive to meet the needs of all of its students and to be proactive in knowing if students are behind and what resources they need to catch up.
“Last summer, we were able to provide students with opportunities to get credits in language arts or math if they were behind,” she said. “And this year, we have put some students in credit recovery to earn those credits needed for graduation.”
Crothersville High School graduated 84 percent of its seniors last year, a 2-point drop from its 86 percent graduation rate in 2014. Crothersville is the only high school in the county to fall below state average when it comes to graduation.
And for the fourth year in a row, Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour graduated 100 percent of its seniors.
Prange doesn’t attribute Seymour’s drop to anything in particular and said it could just be the makeup of the Class of 2015.
“We’ll have to work a little harder at determining who and why they did not graduate,” he said.
He credits the school’s rate to counselors and teachers working closely with students to achieve graduation.
“They are constantly monitoring not only the senior class but the juniors and sophomores to make sure there are no surprises in their senior year,” he said. “We work very hard with students, parents and teachers to address issues when there is still time to make adjustments.”
He also said the growth of the high school’s alternative education program at Jackson County Learning Center and the Grad Point credit recovery program has helped “tremendously,” along with block scheduling, which means students spend more time each day in a particular class.
“The students whose schedules and situations don’t fit well with the traditional program have every opportunity to earn credits and graduate with their class,” he said.
Sheffer said one change that has helped Brownstown increase its graduation rate during the last five years is the implementation of trimesters.
“I believe that helps students get caught up on credits when they fall behind,” he said.
The school also utilizes a credit recovery program to help students stay on track to graduate.
Brownstown is now looking at ways to fund an iGrad program that would pair graduation coaches and volunteer mentors and tutors with students to help them navigate any barriers they experience as they advance through high school.
The goal is to have all students graduate, Sheffer added.
“We have met with the Community Foundation and its partners to try to secure funds to implement this program,” he said.
Sheffer said having a high graduation rate is important because it leads to more productive workers in society and the community.
Having a low high school graduation rate can also have a major economic effect on the community, Prange added.
“Research indicates that the high school dropouts have a much more likelihood to have lower earnings over their lifetime,” he said. “Without a high school diploma, college is out of the question, as are many vocational and military opportunities.”
Prange said graduating high school is just the beginning.
“Obtaining the high school diploma is only the first step in reaching a goal of life-long learning,” he said. “In May, I remind seniors that the word ‘commencement’ means beginning. It’s the beginning of the rest of their lives.”