- Special Sections
- Public Notices
By BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ, Guest Columnist
Indiana’s rising high-school graduation rate, which increased from 76 percent in 2006 to 85 percent in 2010, is tempered by the fact that some students are not making the grade.
Two communities with the best improvement are Richmond and Mishawaka. In both school districts, the high-school graduation rate increased from 52 percent to 78 percent during that five-year period.
Dan Towner, Mishawaka’s interim superintendent, says the district focused on individual student data to determine specific student needs. For example, the data revealed that success or failure in Algebra I often predicts whether or not a student eventually graduates, so additional time, tutoring and technology are devoted to students in Algebra I.
Mishawaka also enhanced existing night-school and credit-recovery programs while enlisting off-duty police officers to contact frequently absent students.
In Richmond, Superintendent Allen Bourff said the creation of a freshman academy and a redesign of the school schedule allow teachers to spend more time with their students.
Bourff said a college prep academy in middle school, a new credit-recovery program in the high school and a dress code have increased academic expectations and rigor.
Bourff also commends the involvement of community organizations like the Kiwanis Club and Every Child Can Read, along with a youth mentoring program.
“We consider relationships just as crucial as academic rigor,” Bourff explained. “We know that if we don’t have those relationships we’re not going to see the results of the academic rigor that we put into place. The students need to have trust in their teachers, counselors and mentors so that those students can come in and discuss why they aren’t achieving and ask for the resources they need to succeed.”
Bourff’s explanation is supported by national research. A University of California study examined a wide range of programs aimed at improving school achievement. Researchers analyzed efforts to increase parental involvement, provide preschool opportunities and craft system-wide school reforms. The study also looked into after-school and summer youth programs as well as tutoring and mentoring sessions offered by community organizations. Some programs are funded publicly, others privately, but the successful programs have something in common.
Researcher David L. Kirp writes, “… a surprising range and number of strategies result in genuine improvement. Though the most promising educational approaches differ in many respects, they share one key element: They emphasize a continuous supply of individual attention, regardless of whether the child in question is an infant, toddler, or teenager.”
While 85 percent of Indiana’s students are graduating from high school, 15 percent are not.
The solution for all students – revealed in Richmond, Mishawaka and national research – is a “continuous supply of individual attention” from families, schools and communities.
Stanczykiewicz is president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Youth Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.