No Excuses Made for 73.8% RSHS Graduation Rate


ROCK SPRINGS — Rock Springs High School Principal Annie Fletcher appeared before the Sweetwater County School District #1 Board of Trustees Monday evening and said she was not about to make excuses for RSHS’s 2017 graduation rate of 73.8%, which she said was the “lowest in five years.”

Comparing With Green River

The 2016-2017 school year was the last for former RSHS principal Darren Peppard, who has since moved on to a superintendent’s position in Colorado.

Green River High School boasted a 92% graduation rate in 2017, according to statistics from the Wyoming Department of Education.

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GRHS has an aggressive intervention program designed to work with students contemplating dropping out to develop an individualized plan to stay in school and graduate.

Success Stories Not in the Statistics

Notwithstanding Fletcher’s earlier comment, she pointed out that every success story of a student rescued from educational limbo does not show up in the graduation statistics.

Fletcher gave as an example an 18-year-old female student who had to move from one foster care location to another around Wyoming with the result that she missed her junior year of high school.

Determined to succeed and graduate eventually, the female student returned to Rock Springs High School and has an educational plan in place after a discussion with Fletcher which will allow the student to graduate perhaps a half-year late, but nonetheless graduate.

“She won’t show up in the 4-year graduation rate this year, but she’s an example of the reason why we all went into education,” Fletcher declared, adding that there needs to be a greater focus upon students as individuals, not as mere numbers.

“We’re not talking about numbers here. We’re talking about students, and each student has their own story,” Fletcher reminded the trustees.

When she looks at the past year’s senior class, Fletcher continued, “I see 399 stories; 295 of those were success stories. There were another 104 stories that didn’t graduate.”

There are approximately 1,400 students at Rock Springs High School, Fletcher said, “and each one of those 1,400 students has a story.”

The bottom line, according to Fletcher, is that each high school student requires his or her own game plan for graduating rather than being forced to fit into a mold. “And when you have 1,400 individual plans, that requires a lot of manpower.”

Black Butte High School

Black Butte High School Principal Mike Maloney had a success story to share, with the BBHS graduation rate having risen from just 20% in 2014 to 61.3% in 2017.

Maloney had a long list of criteria which BBHS uses to assist students toward graduation, but he highlighted just a few, including the school’s internship program.

“We now have an internship program where students can intern in an area they’re excited about,” Maloney declared.

He gave an example of one student who is highly interested in theater and is doing  internship work assisting the Western Wyoming Community College theater program and receiving high school credit for doing so.

Black Butte High School also has a more complete enrollment program than previously, Maloney added. Prospective students and their parents have to answer enrollment questions now, including why the feel that Black Butte High School would work best for them.

There is also the prospecting angle. “We recruit out of eighth grade,” Maloney said, “looking for students that might need a little something different.”

Black Butte High School is not in competition with Rock Springs High School for students, Maloney hastened to add, and every opportunity is afforded any students at RSHS that are having a difficult time to right their ships at the main institution.

Farson-Eden High School

The best success story of the night belonged to Principal Mike Estes of Farson-Eden High School, which had a 100% graduation rate in 2017. “Nineteen out of 19 seniors graduated,” Estes declared.

Among the programs at FEHS assisting students toward graduation are advisory groups, student-led conferences and the extra time that a 4-day school week affords, Estes explained.

“If a student needs some additional time to work on a particular class, the school doors are open on Fridays,” Estes said. “Teachers are there to help.”

All of the board members attended the meeting: Chairman Lenny Hay and trustees Paul Kauchich, Neil Kourbelas, Carol Jelaco, Stephanie Thompson, Max Mickelson, Emma Waldner, and Superintendent Kelly McGovern. Thompson received a certificate for completing certification requirements.

Not that bad, not that good

Things could be worse. According to the Wyoming Department of Education, Fremont School District #21 in 2016 had a graduation rate of just 13%, with only three out of 23 seniors there graduating within four years.

Big Horn School District #1 isn’t much better, with just a 43.8% four-year graduation rate (67 out of 153).

Niobrara School District #1 also has some work to do, with just a 51.3% four-year graduation rate there (60/117).

Ironically, Big Horn School District #3 was near the top of the list, with a 98% four-year graduation rate (48/49).

Uinta School District #4 (Mountain View, Fort Bridger) topped everybody else with a 98.3% four-year graduation rate (56/57).

The average four-year graduation rate for Wyoming as a whole was  80%.

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, the average graduation rate for the country as a whole stood at 84% for 2016.

Iowa led the list at 91.3%, with New Jersey just behind at 90.1%. New Mexico brought up the bottom at 71%.

For neighboring states, going around the horn: Montana-85.6%; South Dakota-83.9%; Nebraska-89.3%; Colorado-78.9%; Utah-85.2%; and Idaho-79.7%.

Overall, 39 of the 50 states had graduation rates at or above 80%.