Schools’ seniors on track

Schools’ seniors on track
Though high school principals are unsure of exact school graduation rates due to state formulas, local high school seniors have so far graduated on time from three targeted county schools.
A large part of this success may be attributed to preventative measures implemented in the form of online programs.
In an interview last week, Weakley County Director of Schools Randy Frazier said “a set of electronic tools was designed to put more students back on the graduation track.” Such tools include the online credit recovery program known as A-Plus Credit Recovery and e4TN, a program students used for the first time.
These programs are designed to help students who have just moved to the area or who ind themselves behind in school and could be helped by a one-on-one computer tutorial.
Greenfield School principal Mike Riggs credits the A-Plus software for guiding his students through the rigors of high school, along with a helpful and ready full-time guidance counselor.
“We started the school year with 39 seniors. One moved away and we graduated all 38,” he said.
“In the last two years, we have taken different avenues to support our success rate. We’ve utilized the online programs much more. A-Plus Recovery has offered our students the chance to catch up throughout the school year and the summer. Also, Sherry Page was a part-time guidance counselor for our elementary school, but now she’s full-time over the entire school so she’s able to be here every day and we talk constantly and she stays on top of things.”
Westview principal David Byars echoed Riggs’ evaluation and stressed the school is taking similar measures to improve attendance and the graduation rate.
“We’re adding programs in that will serve to impact the rate over time,” Byars explained. “The programs will be for the underclassmen and include the A-Plus Recovery program as well as e4TN. We’re enforcing these to make sure we get back on track and keep students from getting behind.”
Byars admitted that while nothing specific can be determined from the numbers as of yet, Westview graduated 147 students this year – a bit of a larger class than usual.  
Dresden Principal Chuck West provides a word of caution for those wanting to jump the gun and call the graduation percentages successful. While he shares the enthusiasm for the online programs, he sends out a reminder that official numbers cannot be evaluated until the fall of the year.
“There are still issues. This class has graduated, but you have to remember, the graduation percentage – the number the schools are being targeted on – is determined by retention of the student from freshman through senior year,” he emphasized.
“We graduated 74 students and that’s good, but the real information will come out in the fall as far as our standing percentage wise. This is the case of any targeted school.”
The Weakley County Adult Learning Center in Dresden offers an exit/option program for students 17 years of age who are three semesters or more behind and have been recommended by counselors or principals and Director Mitchell Parham has reported a decrease in the numbers for the program over the past few years.
“This program offers students the opportunity to make up the credits and, in the end, obtain a GED, but the numbers for the program have been dropping and it’s been due to high school graduation,” Parham deducted.
“Students have been staying in school longer and a large part of that is due to programs such as the A-Plus Recovery Credit. If a student comes here to the option program, that counts as a dropout for the school,” he continued. “Our numbers have dropped. Schools have been doing a good job in keeping their kids in school with those computer programs. Some people who drop out eventually come back and we hope they come to us. Once they turn 18, they will need their GED. I’ve spoken with supervisors across the state and it’s the same story. There is a growing trend – if students drop out of school, there’s very little incentive to go back anymore because the job field is so small right now.”
When a state report card was released late last year, with more rigorous standards for schools to follow, Greenfield, Dresden and Westview were listed as targeted schools for not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for graduation rates. Westview had a graduation percentage of 79.2 percent, Dresden had an 82.7 percent rate and Greenfield had a number of 91.2 percent. The lone high school not targeted in the county – Gleason – had a 95.7 percent graduation rate that dipped from 96.3 percent in 2008 and 2009.
“When students drop out of school and get their GED, it counts against us,” Byars admitted.
“We’re all readjusting. This is a battle we all must try to fight.”
 wcp 5/19/11

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