Daily Reporter staff reports
NEW PALESTINE — A clerical error showed a high-performing local school district as having the one of the lowest graduation rates in the county, according to the state education department.
Southern Hancock usually boasts the best graduation rates in the area; this year, a miscommunication meant the graduation rate was posted artificially low at 91 percent.
It should have been listed at 97 percent, and local and state officials are working together to rectify the error, said Adam Baker, press secretary for the state education department.
New Palestine High School, which has historically held the highest graduation rate among Hancock County schools, is currently working with the department of education to change the record, said Wes Anderson, the district’s communications director.
The district’s graduation rate should be on par with the 96.9 percent rate it received in 2016, officials said.
The statewide average continues to hover at 89 percent, nearly the same as 2016.
All other county school graduation rates stayed relatively the same, within 1 or 2 percentage points of 2016.
Graduation rates reflect the percentage of students who graduate in four years or fewer. They also account for students who received a waiver because they did not meet certain graduation requirements, such as passing end-of-course assessments.
In a statement issued by the district last week, Southern Hancock district leaders pointed to a discrepancy in how some students, primarily those who moved out of state or elected to be home-schooled, were classified.
“They were inadvertently classified as non-graduates and included in the pool, which made the district’s graduation rate go down,” the statement reads.
After New Palestine school officials submitted 2017’s graduation data to the DOE, they were asked to provide documentation on some students’ status to verify they hadn’t dropped out, Baker said.
District officials responded within the two-week window to ensure certain groups of students would not be counted as drop-outs, but due to a miscommunication, the proper documentation was not received by the DOE at that time, Baker said.
District leaders said they’re working closely with the DOE to determine why those students were included in the rate and to rectify the discrepancies.
“Exactly what we’ve done incorrectly, whether it’s us or them, we don’t know. We cooperate with the DOE regularly,” Anderson said. “We’re trying to track down the issue.”
The district plans to sit down and work case by case with the DOE to analyze the records of each student that was slated to graduate, Anderson said.
The DOE has a process for submitting and disputing school data, Baker said. The department deals with hundreds of schools throughout the state and tries to treat each as fairly as possible but has a limited amount of time to spend on each school.
“We do what we can to help schools, but we are always clear on communicating what they need to do. We say, ‘Hey, here is the window, and here is what we need, and here is the number to call if you need help,’” Baker said.
“We’re not dropping the hammer. It’s always our goal to work with districts and figure out what’s the best recourse.”
Three of the county’s four public school districts saw a lower graduation rate in 2017 than the year prior, though all county schools beat the state average, according to data provided by the Indiana Department of Education.
Increased from about 93 percent in 2016 to about 95 percent in 2017.
Fell from just shy of 95 percent in 2016 to to 92 percent in 2017.
Rate decreased slightly from 91 percent in 2016 to to 90 percent in 2017.
The state department of education is working with Southern Hancock Schools, which saw just below 97 percent of its students graduate in 2016, to rectify a records error. The school is expected to have have a 97 percent graduation rate for 2017 as well.
Source: Indiana Department of Education