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Local grad rates post slight drop

State sees 2-point increase

Statewide, the high school graduation rate increased by more than 2 percentage points to 88.6 percent for the 2011-2012 school year, breaking a record set the previous year.

The graduation rate is the highest Indiana has achieved since the state implemented a standard four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate in 2005. This calculation groups students based on class to measure the percentage of students who graduate in four years or less, according to the Department of Education website.

But the story shifts when looking at schools and districts in Allen County.

East Allen County Schools’ overall rate was mostly unchanged, but all of its individual high school graduation rates decreased.

Last school year was the first year students who had previously attended Harding High School were in their new high schools after Harding closed at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. The district closed Harding as the possibility of state sanctions loomed owing to poor performance. Students who would have attended Harding were instead given the option to choose one of the district’s other four high schools.

This year was the inaugural year for East Allen University, the district’s magnet program housed inside the former Harding High School. No graduation rate is available because in the school’s first year it accepted only freshman students.

In its final year of existence, Harding achieved a 71.4 percent graduation, a rate at least 10 percentage points below the district’s other four high schools.

Leo Junior-Senior High School boasted the highest rate for a public school for the 2010-2011 school year, but this year fell about 3 percentage points to 95.5 percent. The graduation rate at Heritage has fallen each year since 2009, but this past school year will be the first year the school’s rate of 85.1 percent is lower than the state average.

EACS spokeswoman Tamyra Kelly said the district has not had time to review the data and therefore declined to comment on the rates. She said the district will review the data and report any inaccuracies to the department.

Fort Wayne Community Schools’ rate decreased for the first time after four years of consecutive increases, moving from 88.2 percent to 87.7 percent.

“Statistically, it’s pretty much the same,” FWCS board President Mark GiaQuinta said.

The district also did not meet or exceed the state average. North Side, Northrop and Wayne high schools all had rates that decreased from the previous year while Snider and South Side posted gains.

“As an urban district … when you compare us to other urban districts we are phenomenal,” FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson said.

FWCS High School Area Administrator Faye Williams-Robbins said the drop isn’t much, but it is concerning. She said with the district’s focus on challenging students to earn college credits and other advancements, its possible schools might see “a little blip here and there.” She said this was the third round of data the state reported, and the district is still going through and checking for accuracies.

“(The process) has been trying this year,” Williams-Robbins said.

Northwest and Southwest Allen County schools both increased their graduation rates by about 2 percentage points. Carroll High School in NACS achieved a 97.2 percent graduation rate, the highest of any public school in the county.

The area’s top rates are reported at private schools, with Lakewood Park Christian achieving a 100 percent graduation rate. Bishop Dwenger was the area’s second-highest with a 99.6 percent graduation rate.

The graduation rate data cited above and listed in The Journal Gazette account for students who graduated through normal channels and those who earned waivers. Waivers were created to help students who have the knowledge to graduate but do not perform well on standardized tests, or those who have other circumstances that explain why they failed the Graduation Qualifying Exam at least three times.

Indiana Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz declined to comment on the rates through a spokesman, saying that it would be inappropriate to comment on data for a time before she took office and even before she was a candidate. Ritz took office in January after ousting former state Superintendent Tony Bennett.