Brownstown Central High School’s graduation rate in 2015 was 96.3 percent.
By 2020, Principal Joe Sheffer said he would like to see a 100 per- cent graduation rate.
With the school implementing an iGrad program in 2016-17, Sheffer said it could help boost the school to that level.
Dan Hodge, executive director of the Jackson County Education Coalition, recently attended a school board meeting and shared the news that Brownstown is one of four schools in a 10-county region receiving funding to start a high school success/dropout prevention program.
Brownstown Central, Madison Consolidated, South Ripley and Switzerland County high schools were awarded a combined $130,658 from the $1.8 million Skill UP Indiana! grant funding via the Indiana Department of Workforce Development received by the regional EcO Attainment Network.
Brownstown’s portion covered nearly $35,000 of the $52,000 it costs to start iGrad. The education coalition will provide the rest of the money.
The coalition partnered with Brownstown Central Community School Corp., Ivy Tech Community College and others in the community in submitting the grant proposal.
“We are extremely excited that we received the Skill UP grant,” Sheffer said. “Our guidance counselors just do not have enough hours during the school day to meet all of our students’ growing needs.”
The iGrad program started in 2012 in Bartholomew County with the goal of high schools achieving a graduation rate of 100 percent.
Graduation coaches help eighth- through 12th-graders navigate any barriers they experience as they advance through their academic career, Sheffer said. College and career coaches help the students prepare for life after high school, and community volunteers serve as mentors and tutors and can be paired with individual students.
The maximum caseload for a team leader or a coach is 40 students.
“The goal of iGrad is to focus on students failing classes, students that need a mentor, problem-solving, 21st Century Scholar students and students with attendance issues,” Sheffer said. “The first-year goal is to identify students with the most need for our iGrad coaches to begin mentoring and working with on a daily basis. Our goals for years two and three would be to begin working on college/career readiness.”
The EcO Attainment Network targeted schools that were identified as having both a need for support and an interest in partnering to co-create high school success programs.
The purpose is to significantly increase the high school graduation rate, post-secondary attainment rate and percentage of adults possessing a high school diploma and post-secondary credential. It also ensures alignment of successful students with career opportunities in the key economic industries — advanced manufacturing and health care.
The Skill UP Indiana! grant program was created to encourage development of sector-focused training and education programs for in-demand occupations at the regional level in order to teach the necessary skills and competencies as identified by local employers.
The regional partnerships also focus on employability skills, or soft skills, instruction that can be used across all careers and work-and-learn opportunities for youth and adult learners.
The four southeast Indiana high schools have agreed to share metrics from the first three years of the program, including the number of students served by grade level, graduation rates, dropout rates, diploma types and transition to post-secondary enrollments, training, military and/or employment after graduation.
“They believe in Brownstown because they saw the engagement, and they knew the administration could make a lot of this stuff happen,” Hodge told the school board. “You all should be very proud that these guys really have not only the foresight to see that this could be helpful, but that other people see that they can make it happen.”
Brownstown’s grant funding will cover two school years. After that time, if the program is successful, school officials will look into additional funding opportunities or ways the corporation can fund it, Superintendent Greg Walker said.
Hodge said getting an iGrad program started at Brownstown is a part of the education coalition’s goal of making Jackson County’s learning system better, which results in economic growth and a high quality of life.
He said the education coalition, which is a partnership of education, business and community leaders, would like iGrad to be available at all public schools in Jackson County. Seymour already has a similar program, Jobs for America’s Graduates.
“We are certain this program will help keep the at-risk students in school and help them earn a diploma and be better prepared to continue their education or enter the workforce,” Hodge said of iGrad.
“It not only has a chance to help (Brownstown’s) graduation rate, but it has a chance to help some of these kids get the skills that they need to get good jobs,” he added. “It is all upside here, and it really is something that we really wanted to do in Jackson County.”
Four schools in the 10-county Indiana Department of Workforce Development Region 9 have received Skill UP Indiana! grant funding to start a high school success/dropout prevention program.
The projects proposed for the southeast Indiana schools are:
Brownstown Central High School: Partnering with Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus to employ an iGrad coach and team leader. Students will receive one-on-one coaching, mentoring and tutoring, and credit recovery will be available as needed to ensure on-time high school graduation.
Madison Consolidated High School: Establishing a new position, career success coach, to provide one-on-one coaching and career counseling. The coach will assist in aligning student career interests with educational pathways, soft skills training, career-focused work in English classes and coordination of work-and-learn opportunities.
South Ripley High School: Increasing the alternative school director position to full time and adding a business teacher. Students in the alternative school will receive tutoring in English and math and one-on-one coaching. It also is adding new school-wide programming through Engaging Schools curriculum.
Switzerland County High School: Expanding the duties of the graduation coach to assist 21st Century Scholars and students in alternative school and credit recovery. Students will participate in career-interest assessments, career and postsecondary awareness activities and coaching. Also, substance abuse training will be provided for staff.
For information about grant recipients, a snapshot of proposed programs, grant award totals, private matching dollars and other Skill UP Indiana! details, visit in.gov/dwd/skillup.htm.
For information about the EcO initiative, visit eco15.org.