Fulton High School hopes to increase graduation rate

Two years ago, administrators at Fulton High School realized things needed to change.

Facing a cohort graduation rate of only 73.5 percent for the 2010-2011 school year — meaning students graduated on time, in four years — a series of programs were put in place to encourage students to succeed an,d ultimately, stay in school. These programs include Graduation Matters, Positive Behavior Support, I Succeed, the Professional Learning Community and the SMART goal-setting plan.

Thanks to these programs, Fulton High School Principal Jason Whitt says the school has made great strides.

“We don’t have the full data for this year yet, but we’ve seen an increase in the cohort rate,” Whitt said.

The graduation rate for the 2011-2012 school year rose to 77.6 percent, and Whitt expects it to rise this year as well.

“We don’t have enough data to say definitely what the cause is,” Whitt said. “But it does seem to be trending for the better.”

Graduation Matters, one of several programs implemented district-wide, aims to pinpoint which students are most at risk for dropping out of school. Those who are part of the Graduation Matters teams collected, and are still collecting, data for each grade level.

They found four main predictors for students at the sixth-grade level who are at risk for dropping out: Attendance, behavior, failing math and failing English. On the high school level, the highest predictor of a student dropping out was found to be whether or not the student had to repeat ninth grade.

With these issues in mind, the administration, staff and faculty at the high school began to take action.

One of the first steps was becoming part of the Professional Learning Community program. The PLC program was implemented last school year, and requires schools to determine what they want to assess and how they intend to fix problems.

Whitt said one of the biggest solutions that came out of PLC was the decision to switch from a block schedule to an hourly schedule. Instead of twice a week, teachers now have the chance to interact with students on a daily basis.

“We’ve definitely seen positive differences in behavior,” Whitt said. “And in some cases, teachers are able to teach more to their students.”

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