The Natrona County School District will likely set individual targets for its high schools’ graduation rates going forward after the district missed its five-year target.
The school board had previously expressed frustration about the low graduation rates, which for Natrona County dipped to just below 79 percent for 2018. While Natrona County High posted what was likely a record high at 84 percent, Kelly Walsh’s graduation rate fell by nearly 3 points. Roosevelt, the district’s alternative high school and likely the largest in the state, also dropped by just over 10 points.
Officials said that if Roosevelt and Midwest — whose graduation rate can fluctuate wildly because of its small size — were broken out, the overall rate would jump. Still, though, even if those schools were placed into their own categories for district-counting purposes, the district would’ve fallen short of its 2019 goal of a 85 percent graduation rate.
Under a proposal crafted by a group of school members, the high schools would be given separate expectations. Kelly Walsh and Natrona County High would have a target of a 88 percent four-year graduation rate by 2024. Those schools, plus Midwest, would be expected to hit a 90 percent rate for students who take four, five, six or seven years to graduate.
Meanwhile, Roosevelt, whose student body has climbed by more than 100 students since the 2013-14 school year, would be expected to reach a graduation rate of 65 percent by 2024. Its extended rate — those students who take between four and seven years to graduate — is targeted at 70 percent.
The goals remain lofty, administrators acknowledged. The trend line for Natrona County and Kelly Walsh is generally upward, but Roosevelt has swung. Midwest generally has low enrollment, given its rural status, and one student not graduating can cause the grad rate to plummet.
Administrators also noted the recent increase in credits needed to graduate from a Natrona County high school. Still, trustee Dave Applegate asked the obvious question: How will the district hold itself accountable to these goals going forward, if they aren’t met by 2024? He was largely met with silence.
He expressed similar concerns at a previous meetings, asking assembled administrators to consider how they would grade themselves over the past five years.
“I think we need to be ready to really look closely at our strategies,” Applegate said, “because we really didn’t say it, but if we graded ourselves on how we did over the last five years — I don’t know how highly ...”
When it comes to strategies, the new proposal would examine them. The proposed strategies would implement individual grad plans for each student, as well as a system for monitoring students’ progress and communicating that process to both students and parents.
Elsewhere in new goals, a small group of trustees proposed three new targets: all schools being rated as meeting or exceeding expectations and that students in third through 10th grade would meet or exceed expectations on state English indicators.