Greenfield-Central graduation rate below state level again

GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central High school’s graduation rate was below the state average for the fifth straight year in 2014, but school officials say they might appeal the rate.

The Indiana Department of Education released 2014 graduation rates Wednesday, showing improvement for most local high schools from the 2013 numbers. Three out of the four high schools are above the state average of 89.8 percent.

Greenfield-Central’s rate came in at 88.6 percent; while that’s higher than the 2013 rate by 2 percentage points, Principal Steve Bryant said the school will continue to work hard to improve its rate.

Bryant, however, added there could be some discrepancy in the numbers: Greenfield-Central officials calculated a 91.8 percent rate. He’s considering appealing the rate released Wednesday.

“It’s better than last year. It’s moving in the right direction,” Bryant added. “The state wants everybody at 90. The state is going up; we’re going up.”

Greenfield-Central has graduation coaches for students, as well as an online academy for those who are at risk of dropping out.

Graduation rates are based on a complicated formula of the number of students in a graduating class, tracked from their freshman year.

Along the way, students who leave school can be classified in one of 14 categories, ranging from poor health to transferring to a new district to home schooling. Students who fit one of those descriptions are removed from the cohort and don’t affect the graduation rate.

Mt. Vernon High School’s rate was 93.8 percent, down slightly from last year’s 95.5 percent. Principal Bernie Campbell said they, too, calculated a higher graduation rate and question the DOE’s official number.

Still, Campbell credits the school’s online recovery program and the fact that administrators meet individually with at-risk students for having a high rate compared with the state average. If the student is facing issues at home, he added, the school is more lenient in extending assignment deadlines to help students pass a class and stay in school.

Eastern Hancock’s rate remained about the same as last year’s at 93.5 percent, but that’s lower than the 2012 and 2011 figures when the school had a nearly 98 percent rate. Principal Dave Pfaff could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

New Palestine High School achieved the highest rate in the county this year. At 95.9 percent, school administrators say they’re happy, but there’s still room for growth.

“I’m very pleased with that rate, but we still have room for improvement,” said Superintendent Lisa Lantrip, adding that high school educators have worked hard to track every student and implement programs to help them graduate.

Up from 92.3 percent in 2013, this year’s rate is where the school thought it would be.

“We’re thrilled that it went up,” Principal Keith Fessler said. “We’re obviously shooting for 100, but we’re thrilled we’ve made some progress, so that’s good.”

The school has worked to identify struggling students earlier, and Fessler attributes that team effort to the school’s success.

Looking at credit deficiencies, grades and attendance, officials identify students who might not be on track to graduate on time as early as their freshman year and intervene as quickly as possible.

And finding mentors for struggling students to work with has proved helpful, Fessler said.

“We have some room to improve,” he said. “It’s always one of our goals.”