Districts see graduation rates dip

2 local public high school districts reflect statewide trend

Two public school districts in Bartholomew County saw a slight dip in their graduation rates last year, mirroring a statewide trend.

The Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. saw 88.7 percent of its seniors graduate in 2017, while 98 percent of students graduated from Hauser High School, according to the Indiana Department of Education. The new graduation statistics reflect a 1.3 percentage point drop from the prior year for BCSC and a 2 percentage point reduction for Hauser.

Graduation rates reported for BCSC and the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. are higher than the statewide graduation rate in 2017 of 87.2 percent, which fell from 89.1 percent in 2016.

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Graduation rates for 2017 at both BCSC high schools, which contribute to the district’s overall score, dropped slightly in a year’s time:

  • Columbus North’s rate of 88.9 percent was down from 90.1 percent.
  • Columbus East’s rate of 88.5 percent was down from 89.9 percent.

School district officials will evaluate the graduation rate data to determine where improvements can be made, BCSC Superintendent Jim Roberts said.

Despite the one-year decline, the Columbus-based district’s graduation rate is still 3.5 percentage points higher than it was four years earlier.

“In any given year, you will have ebbs and flows in the rate, and you hope that over time the trend is a positive one. And that has been the case for Bartholomew Consolidated Schools at both North and East,” Roberts said.

One of the programs which has helped the district’s graduation rate over time is BCSC’s iGrad program, which helps at-risk students in grades 8 to 12 meet graduation requirements and move onto post-secondary education or into the workforce. The program provides mentors, coaches and other assistance to individuals, Roberts said.

Here is a breakdown of the number of students who graduated in four years at each of the county’s public high schools for 2017:

  • At Hauser, 50 of 51 students graduated.
  • At Columbus East, 340 of 384 students graduated.
  • At Columbus North, 423 of 476 students graduated.

Shawn Price, superintendent of the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp., said the district isn’t concerned about the slight drop in 2017 compared to the previous year. Hauser has a strong guidance counseling program in place to assist high school seniors, he said.

“Every student counts and every student matters,” Price said. “We’re proud of our graduation rate … and the attention that we give each student.”

Two private high schools in the Columbus area — Columbus Christian and Trinity Lutheran, based in Seymour — had 100 percent of their students graduate in 2017, as they have for each of the past five years, according to the Department of Education.

Columbus Christian’s small size is among the reasons for its success, said Kendall Wildey, administrator at the school. The school has 15 seniors this year.

“When a student comes in with us as a freshman, we’re able to map out a graduation plan,” Wildey said.

The state’s top education leader also weighed in on the state’s graduation rate for 2017.

“We recognize there is still work to be done, and will continue to partner with local districts to ensure every student graduates prepared for life beyond high school,” said Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The president of the Indiana State Teachers Association was critical of recent trends regarding education in the state.

“Considering the flood of change and constant turmoil in state education policy in the last decade, it’s no surprise Indiana’s graduation rate has dropped and remained relatively stagnant over the past several years,” said Teresa Meredith, president of the state teachers union. “Indiana lawmakers’ blind embrace of charter schools, private school vouchers, overreliance on testing and anti-union efforts haven’t made the progress Hoosiers were sold. It is time for our elected officials to refocus their support for our neighborhood public schools.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com