ROCK SPRINGS — A leveling of graduation rates over the past 12 years has Sweetwater County School District #1 exploring ways to increase the number of graduating seniors moving forward.
The SCSD1 Board of Trustees listened to a presentation last night that shows the district graduation rate from 2007-2019 has averaged just over 74% of the students.
The peak year came in 2011-2012 when 78% of RSHS seniors graduated, while the lowest rate came in 2007-2008 when 67% of the seniors graduated. A chart displaying the graduation rates over the last 12 years shows a plateau that has the school board asking what can be done to increase these numbers.
“What can we do to help you help our kids?” said board member John Bettolo. “The (graduation rate) has been flat, but can you tell us a little bit about who these kids are, and what kinds of things you might be able to use to make it better?”
RSHS Principal Annie Fletcher said the majority of kids who didn’t graduate dropped out before their senior year. She said the district is hoping that the new attendance policy and the 18-credit diploma will help improve rates.
“We have a lot of kids that don’t feel connected to that general, big picture, liberal arts type of education,” Fletcher said. “They want the bare minimum and to be done.”
The district is also focusing on career and technical education and trying to meet the needs of a changing community.
“We’re hoping that through that focus, we’ll start to see some additional improvement and achievement in graduation rates,” Fletcher told the board.
While graduation is a milestone and accomplishment for students, Farson-Eden High School Principal Barbara Rezzonico said the idea is steering students toward a meaningful and rewarding career.
“Our ultimate goal is to prepare each of our students with the skills needed to find success in their individual college and career goals,” Rezzonico said. “These are things that aren’t unique to our building. These are things that are happening across the district.”
Part of the solution has been aligning elected course work to match students’ career interests. The district has also opened up more internship opportunities for students to get real-world experience while continuing course work.
“We also have increased opportunities for dual and concurrent enrollment college classes,” said Rezzonico. “We’ve looked at our students’ career interests and tried to align some of the college classes that they’re taking with the college classes that they’ll need for their career choice.”
RSHS Associate Principal Hope Larios said the district is working on offering certification training like OSHA 10, Safety Ready, and ASE so students will be prepared for entry level positions right out of high school. Certifications also give students “a leg up” in the application process and gaining internship if they choose to go to college.
The high school academies also offer training and certifications so “the focus is to make sure students are employable, ready to go into a college program if they choose, or any type of technical program, they have a leg up in the application process.”
A complete look at the presentation can be viewed in the February board packet.