SOUTHERN INDIANA – Earning high school credits is only one step toward graduation.
Another step requires passing the state’s standardized test. But there’s an option to those who don’t pass after multiple attempts – a graduation waiver.
A growing number of students statewide are needing a waiver to graduate, many due to not passing that test. This past year, that number surpassed 9,000 students, according to numbers recently released by the Indiana Department of Education.
Greater Clark County Schools Superintendent Mark Laughner said his administrators are working to tackle that issue head on and reduce the number of students needing a waiver and increase the number reaching graduation. Newly released 2019 data from the IDOE shows the district dropped from 12 percent needing a waiver in 2018 to just 5 percent this past school year, making them the lowest of any public school district in Clark and Floyd counties.
“That’s what we feel good about, the fact our non-waiver data looks really strong,” Laughner said. “It means our high school principals and counselors are really paying attention to what each student needs.”
Laughner said one of the ways students were able to avoid waivers was by following a graduation pathway. Each of the district’s high schools offer 12 to 15 pathway options, which includes that pathways offered by Prosser Career Education Center, he said.
The district’s overall graduation rate for 2019 is 93.9 percent, a number Laughner said he hopes improves.
“The goal is always to stay above 90 percent. Ideally, we’d like to be above 95 percent each year and our goal on that non-waiver is to get it above 90 percent,” Laughner said. “We feel really good that both our graduation rate and the non-waiver graduation rate is well above the state average.”
HOW IT COMPARES
Locally, New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. had 93.7 percent overall graduation rate, with 13 percent of those graduating with a waiver. West Clark Community Schools had 92.9 percent overall, with 9 percent graduating with a waiver. Clarksville Community Schools had the highest waiver rate, with 19 percent of their graduates receiving a waiver, with an overall 96.7 percent graduation rate.
All the local school districts surpassed the state average of 87 percent graduating, which includes waiver students as well.
At Clarksville, Superintendent Tina Bennett is hoping that by expanding their in-house pathways from four to six, that will help give more students options to graduate in addition to the pathways Prosser offers.
“It’s a way for them to graduate and earn their diploma without having to get that waiver,” Bennett said. “I think it prepared them for life after high school.”
She said the pathway model helps show students are prepared for life after high school better than a standardized test.
According to the IDOE, pathway models allow students to align their graduation requirements to their post-secondary goals, such as by earning an industry certification while in high school.
At NAFC, the graduation rate improved overall, especially at New Albany High School. NAHS had an overall graduation rate of 91.7 percent, compared to 2018’s rate of 88.5 percent. Louis Jensen, associate superintendent at NAFC attributed the growth to focusing on helping minority groups meet the graduation threshold.
“We want all our students to graduate from high school. We stay focused on that every day,” Jensen said. “We’re excited that we improved from the year before.”
To read more about graduation rates, go to doe.in.gov.