GESD Director of Secondary Instruction and Curriculum James Wager raised concerns during Monday’s Board of Education meeting over state reported graduation data that has been circulating, describing the information as incomplete.
“The numbers on the page are accurate, but they are not given any context and it has a tendency to not shine a positive light on the growth that we’ve made over the last few years,” Wager said.
The graduation rates for GESD was reported at 62 percent as of June according to the state Department of Education, but Wager noted the figure encompasses students from the district’s entire cohort that entered ninth grade in 2014, including students requiring placement outside of the district for special education or other reasons.
“The district as a whole cohort is typically larger than the high school itself,” Wager said.
According to Wager, 15 students with placements outside of the district were represented in the state’s June graduation rates, including 10 high needs special education students who typically stay in school until turning 21.
Accounting for students placed outside of the district, the high school’s initial graduation rate in June was 69 percent when 158 students graduated. That number increased to 78 percent in August when another 18 students graduated following the school’s summer senior academy.
“We’ve consistently shown growth in the last cohorts of students,” Wager said. “For a district like us where many of our students take to August, take to January to get there, they’re getting there, but again that message isn’t often reflected in our local media which is disappointing to say the least, because the kids are working hard and so are our teachers and administrators to get them through.”
Wager’s remarks were highlighted by the accomplishments of students Harold Berry, Courtney Oare, Brandon Houghton, Sarenna Ladd and Damien Snoke who were presented with their high school diplomas on Monday after meeting graduation requirements in January.
The Board of Education meeting room was packed with family, friends and faculty members celebrating as the graduates received their diplomas from high school Principal Richard DeMallie and Associate Principal Dennis Bye, who thanked the students, their families and staff members for their constant effort.
“As you know, it is a very difficult path to graduation and sometimes the path doesn’t always go as we planned,” DeMallie said. “Sometimes it’s easy to say I didn’t make it and I think I’m going to go on a different path, but everyone here said your education is something you will need, something that you have to have and we’re sticking with you, so again, thank you.”
For the purposes of state accountability, the January graduates will factor into the school district’s five year graduation rate for their class cohort.
“Accountability is one thing, but the idea is to keep our kids in school and get them to the finish line and for some it’s five and for some it’s six and we’re keeping them here and the kids are getting through, so that’s another important piece,” Wager said.
Also on Monday, the Board of Education recognized the success of high school students Samuel Getman, Benjamin Smouse and Fancheng Yu for achieving perfect scores on the math portion of the PSAT, presenting each student a certificate of commendation.