By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
Kokomo High School’s 2012 graduation rate jumped to 88.8 percent — falling just short of the state’s 90 percent goal, according to preliminary data released by the Indiana Department of Education.
That figure is more than four percent higher than it was in the 2010-2011 school year and surpasses the state average of 88.1 percent.
“I was so proud of our students and staff when I learned of the improvement in our graduation rate at Kokomo High School,” Principal Rick Hagenow said.
Hagenow is in his second year as principal there and said he is really pushing for stronger relationships between staff members and students. All students should have at least one adult at the school they feel like they can trust, the principal said.
“If a student knows that someone cares, it makes a difference,” he said.
Superintendent Jeff Hauswald said the graduation rate sounds worse than it actually is. The system is flawed, he said.
Most of the students who did not graduate are still in school. In fact, only six students in a class of 379 dropped out. Nine students received a special education certificate, and 33 are still taking classes at the high school, the data shows.
“Many of our students take more than four years to graduate, but they are not counted towards our rate,” he said. “Some students opt to stay a fifth year in order to earn additional career or technical education certifications, and the school should not be adversely affected for allowing this to happen.”
Kokomo-Center Schools has made a pronounced effort, though, to reach more students and help them graduate in a timely manner, Hagenow said.
He said the school board has been open to alternative teaching methods. The high school is introducing the International Baccalaureate program to students. The program focuses on project-based learning, service projects and international relations in an effort to engage students.
Students can also enroll in Twilight School, which allows students to take classes at night if they have trouble making it to school during the daytime hours. That program was launched this year.
Hauswald said he’s hoping Twilight School will help boost this year’s graduation rate.
Hagenow said being able to offer such alternatives is essential to helping more students.
“We are allowed to use alternative methods so we can make an attempt to reach each and every student,” he said. “One size does not fit all.”
That approach may be netting results.
Many of the high school’s various student populations are graduating at a higher rate than the state average.
More than 93 percent of seniors receiving reduced-priced lunches graduated last year, and 85.1 percent of students receiving free lunches graduated on time. Both of those numbers fell just above the state average.
Nearly 90 percent of the school’s 78 black seniors graduated last year, which is significantly higher than the state average of 76.9 percent.
All of the school’s Asian seniors, 89.2 percent of the multiracial seniors and 88.6 percent of white seniors graduated last year, according to the data.
Hagenow said school counselors have been more proactive in reaching out to parents of students who are at risk of not graduating.
But the school can’t take all of the credit. He said many local ministers are making high school graduation a priority at their churches.
“We appreciate their support,” he said.
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