Local schools surpass state graduation ratePublished 11:09am Saturday, June 15, 2013
The release of the 2011-2012 state graduation rates have revealed positive results for Alexander City and Tallapoosa County schools.
Tallapoosa County high schools Reeltown, Horseshoe Bend and Dadeville each came in above 80 percent.
Reeltown had the highest rate in the county at 93 percent, while Dadeville and Horseshoe Bend had rates of 82 percent.
Benjamin Russell High School had a graduation rate of 78 percent, six points above the state average of 72 percent.
BRHS principal Jose Reyes said he is pleased with the graduation rate but not content, and there are a lot of factors that go into determining that number.
“We’re happy that we’re above the state average, but we’re not satisfied. We certainly want to continue to improve, and we have done that over the last three or four years,” Reyes said. “But I think what the public doesn’t understand about that particular number, regardless of what system you’re talking about, is they use a cohort system now.”
Reyes said the cohort system means that once a child enters the ninth grade, they are then in that four-year cohort.
“I think what you would find among principals and superintendents is one of the frustrations we have with those numbers is they don’t tell the whole story.” Reyes said. “Let’s say you have a student, maybe for some life issues, go beyond the four-year threshold. Maybe they finished in four and a half years or five years. To me, if they are a graduate, even if it took more than four years, that is still someone who is successful.”
Tom Cochran, principal of Reeltown High School, said Reeltown’s graduation rate is more confirmation of the hard work going on at the school.
“I think it validates what we already know – that our students and teachers are working hard,” Cochran said. “I think the success of Reeltown starts with an involved community, active student participation and great classroom leadership.”
Dadeville High School principal Chris Hand said he is happy with the number but is always looking to improve.
“We are pleased with 82 percent. We want to reach that 90 percent,” Hand said. “Our goal is 100 percent, obviously, but we are pleased that we were able to have that many. That just goes to the dedication of teachers and staff at DHS.”
Hand said he believes the success shows.
“They really work hard to keep everybody in school, and I think that we have a very good environment for keeping students in school,” Hand said.
Reyes said the graduation rate also includes transfer students.
Children with special needs who finish in four years are considered to be completers, which do not go toward the graduation rate, but count against it.
“Also – and this is a real frustration of high school principals – let’s say we have a student that transfers to Benjamin Russell, and they are in the tenth grade” Reyes said. “We have had this happen where they stay a couple of months, and then they drop out. What you have is a student that comes from another school system, stays two months, then they quit, and that counts against us on our graduation rate.”
Hand said steps that Dadeville is taking to improve the graduation rate include having basic skills courses in math and English for upcoming ninth graders and a focus on end-of-course testing for all students.
“What we have worked on and what we are working on now is end-of-course testing. We do think that is going to improve graduation rates,” Hand said. “We have also added some intervention and enrichment classes to try to help those students in the areas where they are weakest, such as math, reading or language.”
Reyes said BRHS has constantly kept parents and students up to date of what the student needs to graduate by way of phone calls and course checklists.
“We have what I think is a very quality credit-recovery program,” Reyes said. “That allows students who might have failed a course to go back through the credit-recovery program, which helps them recover the credit that they loss. It helps students not to get behind. Once students start getting behind, that’s where the problem lies.”
Reyes added he ultimately expects to see the numbers continue to improve at BRHS.
“We’re happy that we’re better than the state average, but we want to be better than what we are this time,” Reyes said. “I look for next years numbers to be even better than we have seen in the past.
“This particular group that just left us in May had 220-plus graduates with $4.2 million in scholarships. That’s one of the best numbers we have seen in quite a while. I think those numbers for 2012-2013 increase.”