Graduation rates at local high schools edged up slightly overall last year, according to a report released Wednesday.
Frankfort Independent Schools – Frankfort High School and the alternative program combined – saw the biggest jump at more than 13 percentage points over the previous year to about 83 percent.
On its own, FHS saw enough growth to hit 72 percent.
Franklin County High School climbed to more than 79 percent, and Western Hills High School posted the only drop, falling to just shy of 80 percent.
Overall, county schools posted a graduation rate of 78 percent, slightly higher than last year. The number includes both high schools and the alternative school.
The Kentucky Department of Education released the data Wednesday for the graduating class of 2011. The federal government requires the annual report.
Statewide, the 2011 graduation rate is 78 percent. In 2010, the state reported a rate of 76.7 percent.
FIS Superintendent Rich Crowe said he was “quite thrilled” with the results. He pointed to changes in the school district’s alternative education offerings, including more online courses.
“I just think it shows that the progress we’ve been making at trying to keep kids in school, and the efforts are paying off,” he said.
He said the move to standards-based grading at FHS last year could help down the road by giving students more opportunities to catch up when they fall behind.
For each new topic or unit of study, teachers must outline the learning goals and detailed information about how students will be graded. Students are also allowed to redo assignments and tests to improve their scores.
Crowe said district leaders plan to keep working to get the message across that school is tough, but not impossible.
“Counseling kids who are at risk of dropping out has paid great dividends,” he said. “Hang in there and persevere and get that diploma – if you hang tough, you will make it.”
Franklin County Public Schools Superintendent Chrissy Jones noted the slight progress among county schools, but said there’s still a lot of room to improve.
“We’re not where we need to be,” she said. “My goal now is to make incremental steps – we’re at 78 percent, so can we get to 85? We will be looking at the data and putting plans in place.”
Jones said the FX program at FCHS – designed to group freshmen together for additional support – might be contributing to growth at that school.
She also pointed to the alternative program at The Academy for at-risk students and credit recovery teachers now staffed at each high school.
Jones said the key to improving graduation rates is looking at each individual child for signs that he or she might drop out down the road.
She said she’d like to see FCPS form a district-wide committee to address dropouts, including educators from the elementary, middle and high school levels.
“There’s a lot of research to show that dropouts start in elementary school, and there are certain red flags that we can look for,” she said.
“It’s a systemic problem, and oftentimes I think what we try to do is fix it at the high school, level and some of these kids need intervention much earlier on.”
Kentucky last year changed the formula it uses to calculate graduation rates as part of a federal push to collect uniform data from all states.
The shift caused local numbers to drop – as much as 30 percent at Frankfort High school – beginning with the 2010 graduating class.
The method, called the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate, will be used through 2013. After that, Kentucky will begin using what’s known in education circles as the cohort model – tracking each student individually.
Jones said educators are worried that numbers will drop again under the cohort model, but overall she’s looking forward to more precise data.
“You have to know what you’re dealing with if you want to improve,” she said.
Franklin co. Public Schools (all students)
Class of 2011 – 78%
Class of 2010 – 77.4%
Class of 2009 – 77.9%
Class of 2008 – 70.3%
Franklin Co. High School
Class of 2011 – 79.3%
Class of 2010 – 76.2%
Class of 2009 – 77.2%
Class of 2008 – 71.3%
Western Hills High School
Class of 2011 – 79.9%
Class of 2010 – 80.5%
Class of 2009 – 80.4%
Class of 2008 – 71.5%
Frankfort Independent Schools (all students)
Class of 2011 – 83.3%
Class of 2010 – 69.7%
Class of 2009 – 58.2%
Class of 2008 – 77%
Frankfort High School
Class of 2011 – 72.1%
Class of 2010 – 66.3%
Class of 2009 – not reported
Class of 2008 – not reported