All students know that a grade of 88 is not bad, but 100 is better.
The Springville-Griffith School Board feels the same way about the high school graduation rate.
The board this week heard details of efforts aimed at inching the percentage of students who graduate in four years closer to a perfect 100.
Principal Vincent Vanderlip illustrated the problems and potential of reaching that goal by breaking down the 163 students in the most recent senior class. In 2012, Springville had 12 percent or 19 students described as “non-completers” or students unable to complete high school by June of their fourth year. Of that group, three graduated in August and two more in January 2013. Of the remaining students, three are still enrolled, three have completed their GED and eight have dropped out.
To improve the graduation rate, Vanderlip said it is important to understand the “why” of dropping out.
He said the district’s steady influx of transfer students are often not as engaged in school and can be unenthused about pulling through to graduation.
“But the common thread among last year’s non-completers,” he said, “was that they came from a divorced or single-parent household.” Vanderlip was quick to say that the blame didn’t necessarily rest with families.
An analysis comparing Springville with East Aurora, a district that boasts a 100 percent graduation rate, showed that despite the similarities or differences in family structure, the real disparity was socioeconomic.
In response, the principal said the district has a number of initiatives aimed at the incoming freshmen, calling ninth grade “the linchpin year.”
The district now assigns high school students to the same homeroom teacher for all four years to provide them with a “constant” in their daily routine. Also, input from middle school staff is used to identify “at risk” students before they arrive at the high school so that they can be assigned an adult advocate.
Other recommendations Vanderlip hopes to enact is a return to the freshman-academy model, which keeps students on a specific academic team at least through ninth grade. He also would like to implement a program to improve classroom behavior and social skills, and offer more internship exposure for upper classes so students remain engaged through graduation.