by Scott Neuffer

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December 13, 2012
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District grad rate drops to 77 percent

Of 520 students who could have graduated from high school last June, 401 students, or 77 percent, actually did, according to preliminary data presented to school board members on Tuesday night.

Douglas County School District Director of Assessments and Grants Brian Frazier reported that 119 students in the district, or 23 percent of the class of 2012, did not graduate.

The tentative figure was calculated using the state's new adjusted cohort formula, which divides graduates by the number of ninth-graders four years prior, taking into account transfers in and out of the class.

Broken down by site, Frazier said Douglas High had a 81.6 graduation rate for 2012, Whittell High had a 80.8 percent graduation rate, and Jacobsen High at China Spring Youth Camp graduated 25.6 percent.

In comparison, the class of 2011 saw 83.6 percent of students graduate district-wide, and 87.3 percent graduate at Douglas High, Frazier said.

Although the same formula shows a dip between the two years, Frazier said it's not indicative of a larger trend.

"It's a different class than 2011, and it's a different class than 2013," he said.

Of the 401 students who graduated throughout the district, 245, or 61 percent, received standard diplomas, 119, or 30 percent, received advanced diplomas, and 37, or 9 percent, received adult diplomas.

Of the 119 students considered nongraduates, 50, or 42 percent, were "completers," meaning they either completed a GED (37 students) or an adjusted diploma (13 students).

Nineteen students, or 16 percent of nongraduates, are fifth-year seniors; and 50 students, or 42 percent of nongraduates, dropped out.

Among dropouts, seven students withdrew to a GED program but did not complete; two students were credit deficient; 13 students were in or left juvenile detention and were not accounted for by other agencies; and 19 students' whereabouts were unknown.

Nine students didn't graduate for other reasons, such as expulsion or employment.

Frazier said the preliminary numbers should be finalized by this spring.

Going forward, the district will focus on increasing rates for all diploma types, shifting GED students to at least adult diplomas, and tracking down those students whose whereabouts remain unknown.

"If you look at it like a big wheel," Frazier said, "we want to shift GEDs to at least adult diplomas, adult diplomas to standard diplomas, and standard diplomas to advanced diplomas. We want to be accountable for 100 percent of students."

Board members also discussed current graduation requirements, including the practice of separating adult diploma and regular diploma ceremonies.

As it stands now, students who don't meet all testing requirements can opt for an adult diploma by finishing later, but they are not allowed to walk with their peers during the regular ceremony.

"I've cried with parents," said DHS Principal Marty Swisher. "I don't know of any other district that segregates the kids like this. They ought to be honored at the same time."

Board members, though, want staff to research if ceremony privileges are a motivating factor for those students trying to meet standards.

"Would we lose that motivation if we changed this?" asked Board President Sharla Hales. "I want to make sure our system doesn't lie to kids. I want students to have a clear idea of what they need to do to get a job and provide for themselves and their family."

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The Record Courier Updated Dec 13, 2012 06:24PM Published Dec 13, 2012 06:22PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.