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Principals clarify dropout, graduation rates

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tim Rayle
Concerns over graduation rates have led to anxiety within the community regarding dropout rates.

Recently, the Indiana Department of Education released the graduation rate for the Clay Community School Corporation.

CCSC achieved an 83 percent compared to the 81.5 percent for the state. Clay City Jr./Sr. High School attained 94.8 percent while Northview High School attained 80.9 percent.

Members of the community have questioned the differences in the two numbers and both principals talked with The Brazil Times about graduation rates and student dropouts.

"It is important for the public to understand the concept of graduation rate in Indiana," Northview Principal Tim Rayle said. "The rate reported for Northview (80.9 percent) is the number of students who completed all of the state and local requirements in four years, which includes students who started as freshmen and also students who transferred in. Students who take five or six years to graduate are counted against us in this rate."

Graduation rate calculations changed with the class of 2006.

Before the 2005-06 academic school year, Indiana used a calculation that was recommended by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The rate was calculated by taking the graduation class of any year, the percentage of the class that did not dropout their freshmen year is calculated based on the October enrollment freshmen year.

Then, the percentage of students who did not dropout their sophomore year is calculated based on the October enrollment sophomore year. The same is done for junior and senior years. All the percentages are then multiplied together.

For example if you take 95 percent multiplied by 93 percent multiplied by 95 percent multiplied by 97 percent equals 81.4 percent.

"This graduation rate was not a four-year high school completion rate," Rayle said. "It calculated the percentage of students who persisted in school from one year to the next, regardless of their educational progress."

To calculate a four-year completion rate, individual students would need to be followed from admission into high school through graduation. This calculation became possible in Indiana with the 2006 graduating class.

The new formula began establishing a cohort (or class) of first-time freshmen that expands and contracts as students transfer in and out of school during the years that follow. The graduation rate that is calculated is only based on students who graduate in four years.

Jeff Bell
So the number of certificates of completion or attendance, students who are still in school after four years and the 49 students who received a General Educational Diploma (GED) during the 2008-09 academic school year do not count in the calculation of the graduation rate.

"The current four-year completion rate of 80.9 percent does not mean that 80.9 percent of our students graduated and 19.1 percent dropped out," Rayle said. "It does, however, indicate that 80.9 percent of students who entered Northview in the freshmen cohort met all of the state requirements in four years, and 19.1 percent did not meet the requirements in four years."

The state has 81.5 percent graduation rate under the new calculation, which doesn't include 8.7 percent who are dropouts, 1.1 percent who receive special education certificates, a 0.4 percent who receive non-diploma course completion and 7.2 percent who are still in school.

According to information provided by the Indiana Department of Education for CCSC, there is a 5.4 percent dropout rate, a 2.2 percent course completion and 1.6 percent special education certificate and 7.9 percent still in school.

According to school records, during the 2008-09 academic school year there were a total of 220 students who graduated from Northview and 63 students from Clay City High School. A total of 15 students dropped out from Northview and one from Clay City during the same school year.

"When a student decides they want to dropout then we have an exit interview with them," Clay City Principal Jeff Bell said. "We explain to them what the long-term side effects are of not graduating with a high school diploma."

Though both principals' deter students from dropping out, each student is given a copy of the law, which explains the process. It is also located in their student handbooks.

"No one wants a student to leave," Bell said. "No one would intentionally tell a student to dropout."

Including the exit interview, students are required to go through a process, which involves parents and principals, but the ultimate goal is to keep the student in school.

"Our actual dropout rate is less than three percent," Rayle said about Northview High School. "We all agree that this rate is unacceptable. However, in terms of completing high school, this is evident in the increase of the percentage of students graduating in four, five, and six years. This is also evident in the number of students actually not dropping out of Northview High School."

Both principals were steadfast in their unwavering views that all children should stay in school.

"The faculty and staff make every effort to ensure the success of our students," Rayle said. "We would like nothing more than to have zero students dropping out and we are working diligently to make this a reality."

Rayle was adamant that anyone who is interested in finishing school would not be turned away.

"We will talk with anyone who is willing to work," Rayle said. "The most rewarding moments come when working with at-risk students and seeing them graduate."

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Does the drop out rate include students who leave to be "homeschooled?"

-- Posted by Anodos on Wed, Feb 10, 2010, at 5:01 AM


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-- Posted by barry51 on Wed, Feb 10, 2010, at 7:34 AM

I have had two children graduate from Northview and one still in Northview. My first graduated 6 years ago. My experience has been that there is now much more of an emphasis on getting students thru with a higher quality education than in the past. The teachers and staff seem more caring than in years past. However there are still a handful of teachers that seem to never go away that, because of their attitude, would be fired from any job in the real world.

Our school corporation offers several opportunities for all students to make it to graduation; the most glaring of those being the alternative school. Take a look at the home life, or lack of, for the students who are failing or dropping out of school.

Parents if your child is failing or considering dropping out call your school and make an appointment with the principal and counselor. They will help you and your child find a way to graduate.

-- Posted by IHMagnum on Wed, Feb 10, 2010, at 8:32 AM

Instead of looking at numbers, we need to be looking at how our schools are meeting the increased competition their graduates will have to deal with AFTER high school. I agree with IHMagnum that the ATTITUDE at Northview has improved as far as helping the student be the best he or she can be over the past few years [I had kids graduate in 2003 and 2007 and still have two there] BUT the school has not had the support from central office or the school board to maintain, never mind keep up with, changes needed to be better prepared for the competitive workforce later on.

Since 2003, Northview has reduced course sections so students have reduced access to classes. Now they have had to also eliminate Early Bird classes in order to put teachers back into the 6 period day that were removed back a few years ago. So while 90 other counties in Indiana have supplied their students with the 14 credit hours per year in high school, here in Clay County we have taken that away, using a credit recovery computer system that supplies credit, but does not supply actual learning which is critical not only for the student's ability to compete intellectually, but to compete with college entrance and scholarship requirements.

So while the school is doing the best it can with what the corporation is handing them, the school's administration and teachers can do only so much if the students do not have access to them.

An ISU study 1-2 years ago came to the conclusion that individually the various schools in the corporation were doing pretty well but they could do a whole lot better with more support from central office and the school board. To date I have not seen that support improved by the continued downsizing of the academic programs and stagnant student teacher ratio in lower grades.

We need to be more concerned about the delivery and availability and true promotion of education corporation wide and how many graduates have the ability to go on to be contributing members of community than how many are graduates and just "dumped out" into the community unprepared to make it in today's world. Those are the numbers I'd like to see. Retention just accomplishes funding for the school, not success with the student.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Wed, Feb 10, 2010, at 9:11 AM

To quote Samuel Clemens, AKA "Mark Twain", "Figures often beguile me," he wrote, "particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."" Basically, the graduation rate is a feeble attempt to keep score in a game where there are just too many ways to score or fail to make it worthwhile to worry about keeping score. As it stands, from the explanation offered by Mr. Rayle, the only thing the graduation rate indicates is the percentage of students that meet the requirement for a diploma before passing a certain point in time. The problem is that there are just too many factors involved to consider the graduation rate as a definitive "score" as to how our high schools are doing with our students.

Our students are not numbers to be crunched, they are people who are to be educated to the point where they can support themselves within our society and, as is the case, those who cannot. Those that can but will not learn enough to support themselves are a burden to society that society will stop feeling sorry for one day and seek a solution to that problem.

Our high schools have several problems with the graduation rate. They must attempt to educate whomever shows up for class. Yet you hear teachers state that students come into the high schools unprepared for grade level. You get the same thing at our middle school while our elementary school teachers that they do not have time to teach students to grade level. At the very beginning, many of our kindergarteners test behind their nationwide peer group. That puts our entire school corporation behind the curve from the very start of education.

So, how do we best change education to improve the graduation rate? We cannot change the "raw" student at Kindergarten and the primary grade levels except by investing in educating them to be ready to move on. We have to get away from the idea that we cannot hold a student back because they are not ready to advance as it will hurt their self-esteem. We currently do that, then dump them into the high schools set up to fail and, even worse, dump them into society unequipped to earn a living. We need more teachers and smaller classes in our elementary schools and to demand that students meet high standards before moving on at all grade levels. We have to offer the demanding courses that challenge the mind and we have to challenge every student.

Why isn't this being done today? That is simple - money, politics, and society has not yet realized that it is coming to the brink of a cliff where those who can and will earn a living can no longer support those that cannot and the greater number of those who could but will not as long as they do not have to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Wed, Feb 10, 2010, at 7:40 PM

Mrs. Moore,

For years you have thrown verbal rocks at those who invest their time to help education in Clay County. At times you have very valid points. Other times your comments are no where near the mark. The one consistant thing about you is that you never put your name on the ballot for school board or any other office. With all due respect Mrs. Moore it is time for you to get in the game. Stop heckling the players from the stands and make a real effort to make the changes you write about.

-- Posted by seventyx7 on Wed, Feb 10, 2010, at 8:03 PM


Seventy does have a legitimate point.

-- Posted by karenmeister on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 3:29 AM

Yes, Jenny makes a lot of comments on education, most of which I agree with and some that I don't, that she invests some time in researching and reading before she writes them up. If she ran for school board, I would support her.

However, for people to say that she "should get into the game" and sit on the board is rather unfair as I suspect that no one saying it knows Jenny personally. Do you know how she spends her time running a farm, raising her girls, or that her husband's employment requires that he travel often for extended periods? Do you know that she volunteers at schools, her girls are active in extra-curricular activities, and that she participates in Northview's Academic Advancement Team?

Do you know that she is less active now, although more vocal with the opportunity to post here than she had in the beginning (over thirteen years ago)? Did you know that a former school board member referred her and her husband as "transients" because they moved here instead of being born here?

After talking yourself blue in the face to people who do not listen and will not work on problems due to their own agendas to spend money to little effect, you just get tired of doing it. You can try to teach a pig to sing, but it will waste your time and annoy the pig. Jenny does her share for education in the community and more.

There are more posters on this article than there are citizens, not employed by the school corporation, in attendance at most school board meetings.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 6:11 AM

Thanks Leo. Very gallant of you though my "farm" can only be described with tongue in cheek. I gave up our family dairy herd due to old "war" injuries [with those same dairy animals mostly]. We now just maintain a few albeit large pets and rescue animals.

I would invite any reader to reread my comments. I too feel that many things have improved at Northview. I know this due to that participation on the school improvement committee along with the work I've been a small part of on the academic booster club, such as the recent workshop where several of the teachers as well as members of the community and nearby colleges talked about how to navigate the preparation for what comes AFTER high school. We plan to do more so all invited to come help. While I think the schools could do better I realize that they will never be perfect so might as well help individuals get the most out of what is offered.

There are other volunteer/service projects I also am involved with here in the county and outside it that involve education, animal welfare, and general well being. When one door closes, another opens.

I post comments on this forum on occasion in order to help share knowledge at times and provide a different opinion as when one side of a story is the only one told, prejudices and close mindedness prevails. Many times there is more than one way to do something. Sometimes one way is better than another but if we don't even try to see things from a different perspective, we will never progress. Even the Amish hire drivers now more than they drive their buggies to town and they are famous for sticking to the old ways.

As Leo stated however, me running for school board would be a complete waste of my time and energy. Though many individuals in this community are very decent people, there is a subtle undercurrent of division that separates those who have generations in the cemetery and those who don't. It took me a while to fully realize this but once I did, I shifted my focus to where I thought I could make a difference, abandoning the road where all I was accomplishing was bloodying my head on the proverbial wall.

However to stop making comments where I feel things could be improved is counter to always striving to be the best....When we are willing to only make do and pat each other on the back for what we've done in the past, we start sliding down a slippery slope into mediocrity and forget that those behind us are getting ready to climb on our shoulders to leap in front of us. In some cases they have already as we stood by only reminiscing the past.

Hope to see you soon and not only via this forum.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 1:20 PM

No one has bothered to answer my question, so I will present my theory.

The drop out rate does not include students who leave to be home schooled. Most, if not all, of these students at the high school level are not being home schooled at all! They are simply drop outs, but because they claim to be home schooled they do not count against the graduation rate. If they were, the actual drop out rates would be a lot higher.

This is not just a problem here in Clay County, but across the state. No one ever talks about it because administrators use home schooling as a way of propping up the graduation rates.

Of course, this is just my theory. I could stand corrected.

-- Posted by Anodos on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 5:40 PM


Indiana has no check and balance system for homeschooling. Many other states have homeschooling but they require the students to take tests each semester or year to make sure that they are getting the education they are supposed to be.

This is yet another way in which we have failed to educate a portion of the people who are supposedly going to support our society tomorrow.

While some do actually homeschool, others are just pulling them out of school to babysit, work, or comply with religious beliefs and do not actually teach them. I do not know how these are counted though I don't beleive the school gets funding for them unless they are taking a course or two at the school. Some parents do this with courses that they feel they are not qualified to teach. You might ask Mr Rayle. He would know.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 7:27 PM


Most of the people who run for public office have as many responsibilities as you, if not more. It is not uncommon for people to fold their cards and go home at the moment of truth. I really thought that you would be different.

-- Posted by seventyx7 on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 11:18 PM

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