Long before seniors are close to getting their diplomas, school officials have already pegged which students may need additional assistance to finish on time.
And for those struggling students, school officials will make house calls, send weekly update letters and take away an elective course to make sure they graduate in four years.
“We do whatever it takes to get them through,” Edinburgh High School principal Kevin Rockey said. “We rarely have students who don’t make it because we prod so much.”
Calling parents to let them know their child is not able to graduate is the worst part of his job, Rockey said.
So, if a student needs Rockey to proofread an English paper, he will. If an administrator needs to call a student in the morning to make sure they get to school on time, they will, Rockey said. And if a student stops showing up to school with just weeks left in the semester, Rockey makes a house call to see what is needed to get them there, he said.
“Our goal is to have no surprises,” Rockey said. “We don’t want any parent or any student to be surprised.”
In the past, teenagers who were at risk of not graduating would cram for finals in the hopes of passing, take classes during the summer or repeat another year of high school. Now, school officials are creating a bigger support system for students as soon as eighth grade to ensure they graduate within four years of high school.
Edinburgh and Greenwood Community high schools’ officials anticipate about 10 percent of each senior class is on the brink of not graduating with their peers, said Rockey and Greenwood director of guidance Bill Ronk. But school officials have made an effort to talk to students about their progress earlier in their high school career.
“Those students are no surprise to us because we’ve been monitoring them all along,” Ronk said.
Starting as freshmen, students failing to turn in homework or not doing well on tests will speak with guidance counselors or other administrators, Ronk said. They create a plan to get the student back on track, whether that means taking a class over or creating a homework plan that works for that student, he said.
Clark-Pleasant, Greenwood and Franklin have all made changes to how soon students are considered at-risk of not graduating on time. For example, a new Clark-Pleasant program this year identified about 15 freshmen who were struggling in eighth grade with homework or certain subjects.
Those students had more access to teachers or support staff throughout the school day, Clark-Pleasant assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said. The program was so successful that school officials are continuing the structure again for a select group of current at-risk eighth-graders, Rains said. And the freshmen will continue the same method as sophomores next year, he said.
“Typically, we don’t have surprises anymore senior year, unless a student moves in (from out of the school district),” Rains said.
For the seniors who are still at-risk, administrators will note which students need immediate intervention by spring break, said Franklin Community High School assistant principal Scott Martin and Indian Creek High School principal Luke Skobel.
Franklin students who need another core class to graduate, such as math or English, will have one elective course dropped from their schedule and replaced with time to work online instead, he said. This year, at least 10 students had their schedule altered so they could finish their required courses in time for graduation, he said.
“Instead of keeping them in the class for the last three to five weeks, we will switch them to the online course,” Martin said.
At the beginning of the third quarter of the school year, Skobel sends letters to students if they could be cutting it too close, he said. If nothing changes, he’ll start sending letters each week to let parents know their child is still at risk of not graduating, Skobel said.
School officials are trying to intervene when students struggle as freshmen, instead of waiting until their junior or senior year, they said.
Last year, Greenwood Community High School added a program called Greenwood Connections, specifically for juniors and seniors to spend a half-day catching up in classes where they struggled to learn the material, or needed to make up a class. The students could work online at their own pace, and most students completed a semester’s worth of work in less than three months.
Now, Greenwood Connections is expanding to allow freshmen and sophomores to get remediation in math and English courses, Ronk said.
Franklin Community High School began a new class this year for students in their freshman through junior years struggling in core classes, allowing them to work online and make up credit to get back on track to graduate in four years, he said.
Each school district expects a few students to just narrowly make it to graduation. Here’s a look at how many students are struggling this year:
7 to 8 students
About 10 percent of the senior class, between 25 to 30 students
About 20 students are struggling in at least one class