GREENFIELD — Class next door to Greenfield-Central High School looks a little different.
Classroom sizes are smaller. School days are shorter.
About 50 students attend school at The Academy at Greenfield-Central, the district’s new alternative school that opened this year to help meet the needs of students at risk of falling behind or dropping out.
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The option joins several initiatives educators have launched in hopes of helping more students graduate, and they’ll rely on it heavily as they set a new lofty goal for their graduation rate.
Ninety-one percent — or 302 — of Greenfield-Central’s seniors graduated with the class of 2016, data shows; the figure surpasses both the 89.1 percent state grad rate and the longtime 90-percent goal of the district.
For years, Greenfield-Central High School’s number of students graduating on time fell below the state average, hovering in the 80s.
Superintendent Harold Olin knew the district could do more; the community deserved better. He set a target — 90 percent — he thought was attainable, and last year’s graduating class surpassed it, data recently released by the Indiana Department of Education shows.
The formula to calculate graduation rates is complicated. The freshman class from four years ago represents a “cohort,” and schools subtract students who transfer out of their district or come in after their freshmen year. They also eliminate those who leave the school for home school or an online academy. The end number is used to calculate a graduation rate.
Of the 332 students who made up the Greenfield-Central class of 2016 when they started high school in 2012, 302 graduated. Six of those students are still in school, five students received an equivalency degree or a special education certificate, and 19 dropped out, department of education data shows.
As the local school district celebrates educators’ and students’ accomplishments for surpassing the state average and meeting their initial goal, administrators are setting an ambitious new target. By 2020, they want the graduation rate to hit 95 percent.
For the past 10 years, Greenfield-Central’s graduation rate has slowly ticked upward, data shows, increasing by about 25 percent from 2007 to 2016. About 72.6 percent of students in the class of 2007 graduated that year.
Programs the high school has implemented during the past few years to provide extra support have resulted in fewer students dropping out or falling behind their classmates, said Principal Steve Bryant.
The school’s Cougar Café lounge offers tutoring for students who need extra help with school work. Students also have the opportunity to recover credits through online courses they can complete in their spare time.
Two graduation coaches work one on one with at-risk students to educate them about the importance of a high school degree and encourage them along the way. The graduation coaches meet with the students’ teachers and their parents to ensure students are completing classwork.
Summer school classes allow students to graduate with their peers as long as they complete courses they need once the school year wraps up.
Those programs have been critical to increasing the number of students who graduate, Bryant said. And meeting the 90-percent goal gives educators the confidence and encouragement to keep going, he said.
“We shouldn’t be content with 90 percent anymore,” Bryant said. “We’re looking forward.”
Meeting the new goal is doable, Olin believes, and educators hope the recently opened alternative school helps more even students reach the high school finish line.
The alternative school gives students who attend a more flexible schedule. They can attend school for fewer hours — in the morning or afternoon. Classroom sizes are smaller than at the high school — two teachers oversee classes of about 15 students — so students receive a more individualized learning experience, said director Nathan Bruck.
This year, 53 students are enrolled, he said. Some of those students face learning challenges that make it difficult to be successful in a traditional classroom environment. Students at Greenfield-Central have block scheduling, in which they attend four classes every other day for 90 minutes. Others face personal hardships — illnesses, family problems or having to hold a job — that make attending school for a full day difficult.
The academy isn’t the right fit for every student, but for some, it’s the right intervention educators can make to try to prevent students from dropping out, Bruck said.
That’s the ultimate goal, Olin said: To encourage every student to get a high school degree.
“We want 100 percent of our students to graduate,” he said. “Life circumstances sometimes don’t allow that to happen. …This is a step closer.”
Greenfield-Central High School’s graduation rate has been on the rise over the past three years as the school inched closer to its 90 percent goal, which it reached with last year’s graduating class, data shows.
2012-13: 86.3 percent
2013-14: 88.6 percent
2014-15: 88.2 percent
2015-16: 91 percent
All four county school district’s surpassed the state’s graduation rate.
Greenfield-Central: 91 percent
Mt. Vernon: 94.9 percent
Eastern Hancock: 93.3 percent
Southern Hancock: 96.9 percent