Graduation rates holding steady

Even though at least 90 percent of Franklin Community High School seniors regularly graduate within four years, the principal wants to see that rate climb higher.

For years, between 83 and 88 percent of Franklin’s seniors were graduating within four years, and Principal Doug Harter was tasked with raising the graduation rate to at least 90 percent. The high school met that goal in 2013, when 93 percent of students graduated on time, and again in 2014 with a 91 percent graduation rate, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

Now, Harter wants the graduation rate to hit at least 95 percent within the next two to three years.

“That translates to (students) being able to take that next step in their life, whether that’s going on to college or to start their careers,” Harter said.

Indiana’s overall graduate rate was relatively unchanged between 2013 and 2014, about 89 percent, and all of Johnson County’s public high schools exceeded that rate. Whiteland, Indian Creek and Edinburgh had graduation rates between 96 and 98 percent. Graduation rates for Center Grove, Greenwood and Franklin were between 91 and 93 percent, according to the department of education.

“I want to thank Indiana’s students, educators and families for their continued hard work,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said in a news release. “Because of their efforts and the outreach efforts of the department of education, more children are graduating from high school and preparing themselves for college and career(s).”

To raise Franklin’s graduation rate and keep it above 90 percent, Harter and teachers created programs for students who fall behind in their classes or who have failed or at risk of failing the end-of-course assessments required for graduation.

Each week, students who need help preparing for the mandatory Algebra I and English 10 end-of-course exams spend extra time working with teachers in those classes, mastering lessons they don’t understand. Franklin also schedules multiple sessions throughout the week when students who are falling behind in other core classes can work with their teachers to catch up, Harter said.

While it’s important to make sure kids are keeping up with schoolwork, teachers also have to watch for students having personal problems that make it difficult for them to focus in school, he said.

“Sometimes it’s not a matter that the students don’t have the skills to do schoolwork,” Harter said. “But they’re so focused on what’s happening in their lives outside of school that it impacts their ability to function and do the schoolwork that’s being required of them. They need somebody to listen to them or encourage them.”

Franklin’s teachers provide that emotional support through the high school’s LAUNCH program, which helps freshmen who are having a tough time getting used to the schedule and demands of high school. As students get older, they transition to the Franklin Academy, which offers online courses students can use to finish high school, Harter said.

To hit a 95 percent graduation rate, Harter said, he wants to consider what else Franklin can do to help students who don’t do as well in traditional classrooms.

He said he knows some students fall behind because they’re not regularly at school, sometimes because they have to work late at night and sleep during the day. Franklin needs to find ways to enable those students to finish classes, such as by offering online or blended classrooms where students could do more of their classwork on their own time, he said.