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Area graduation rates improve

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For the first time in at least seven years, more than 90 percent of the seniors at Franklin Community High School graduated within four years.

Franklin’s graduation rate had been the lowest in Johnson County, and the high school struggled to rise above the statewide graduation rate for years. But at the end of last school year, 93 percent of Franklin’s seniors graduated on time.

That’s the same graduation rate as Center Grove, Whiteland Community and Indian Creek high schools. At 95 percent, Greenwood Community had the county’s highest graduation rate last school year, according to numbers released by the state Wednesday. The graduation rate for Edinburgh Community High School was 85 percent.

Indiana’s overall graduation rate for the 2012-13 school year was 89 percent, which was unchanged from the previous school year.

Officials at Franklin have been trying to raise the school’s graduation rate for years, and that was one of the top goals Principal Doug Harter was tasked with achieving when he was hired two years ago.

Programs that identify younger students in danger of dropping out and that help students pass the end-of-course assessments likely are ensuring more students graduate on time, Harter said.

The high school plans to continue looking for and helping students who otherwise might consider leaving without their diploma, Harter said.

“We’re just trying to be very intentional, and we’re trying to do a better job with our data to track these kids so that they’re having success. And not just hoping that’s going to happen,” Harter said.

Several years ago Franklin began a program called LAUNCH, which identified freshmen and sophomores who had behavioral problems or trouble keeping up with their classes in middle school and who Franklin officials worried might drop out.

Students in the program work regularly with teachers who remind them about the high school’s standards and make sure they understand the lessons in core subjects. The goal is to make those students ready to work more independently their junior and senior years.

This school year, LAUNCH and the high school’s former Finish Strong course have been folded into a new program, the Franklin Academy. The goal of the academy is to identify even more Franklin students in different grades who are thinking about leaving high school and finding ways to help them finish, Harter said.

Previously, the director of Finish Strong enrolled any student from any high school who wanted to take online courses to earn a diploma. But by the end of last school year, about 350 people were enrolled in the program, making it impossible for staff to follow up with students who weren’t completing assignments.

This year, the high school added staff to the program, required students to spend more time working at the high school, instead of signing into online assignments remotely, and capped the program at 180 students. That way school officials could ensure more students completed their work.

That eventually will result in even more Franklin students graduating on time, Harter said.

The state’s non-waiver graduation rate, which does not include students who received diplomas even though they didn’t pass the required Algebra I or English 10 end-of-course assessments, was about 82 percent last year.

That rate was up from 80 percent at the end of the 2011-12 school year, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.

“While the overall graduation rate is largely the same as it was in 2012, when you dig into the data it becomes clear that more of our students are graduating without a waiver and passing their end-of-course assessments,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said in a news release.

“This is a crucial step in ensuring that our students graduate from high school both college and career ready.”

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