Natrona County’s three traditional high schools will be expected to make a 6-point jump in their graduation rate over the next five years, while roughly two-thirds of schools here will have to improve by 2024 to meet new goals approved by the school board July 10.
The Natrona County School District’s five-year strategic plan sets higher expectations for the district’s 30 or so schools and 13,000 students. The district’s previous strategic plan, which set four goals that were supposed to have been met by this year, had mixed results: Schools here failed to meet state expectations and the high schools fell well short of the 85 percent graduation rate benchmark. The district did meet its community satisfaction goal but likely fell short on its literacy target (a recent change to the state testing system makes this difficult to judge for certain).
Those shortcomings played a role in the board’s discussion of these new goals, which have been publicly developed over the past several months. The board initially set a graduation rate goal of 88 percent, which would be a 10-point bump from its 2018 graduation rate of 78 percent. Trustees decided to separate Roosevelt — the district’s alternative high school — from the three traditional high schools: Natrona County, Kelly Walsh and Midwest. Then, after some concern from teachers, the board lowered the goal from 88 percent to 86 percent, 1 point higher than the goal the schools failed to meet this year.
Roosevelt, which deals with students who are at a high risk of not graduating, has had significantly lower graduation rates than its traditional peers. RHS will be expected to hit a 65 percent graduation rate by 2024. Its 2018 rate was just 35 percent, according to state data. But district and school leaders are optimistic about the school’s potential going forward, as it revamps its enrollment and rolls out an effort to have every student build and stick to a graduation plan.
The three traditional schools, meanwhile, posted a cumulative graduation rate of 82 percent last year. That’s a solid bump from the schools’ 2012-13 rate of 76 percent, but the district will have to replicate that 6 percent jump to meet its newest goal.
To do that, the district will rely heavily on new graduation plans for each student, which will track how its high schoolers are faring throughout their last four years, keeping in touch with both the students and their parents. The board has been optimistic about the plans, though a few members have expressed disappointment that the schools couldn’t meet the goals this year.
A goal that’s effectively unchanged is the district’s desire to have 100 percent of its schools meet state expectations. Each year, the Wyoming Department of Education weighs each school and places it into one of four categories: not meeting expectations, partially meeting, meeting and exceeding. Last year, roughly a third of Natrona County schools met or exceeded expectations, despite the district having a goal of 100 percent meeting by 2019.
That goal is back for 2024, with the district planning on rolling out three strategies to make it a reality. First, the district is in the process of implementing its Multi-Tiered Systems of Support program, which will be used across Natrona County to intervene with students both behaviorally and educationally. Second, the district plans to set up professional learning communities — in which teachers collaborate actively to better each other — in each school. And finally, schools will implement an “evidence-based instructional framework” to guide teaching.
The district’s other three goals for 2024 are:
- meeting state expectations for English language arts for grades three through 10. It’s in a similar vein of the previous literacy goal, which the district failed to meet. Testing results from last year showed Natrona County students are generally lagging behind their peers across the state on English language arts;
- that by “2024, NCSD will ensure that all district environments are safe, orderly, supportive, and conducive to a climate of high expectations for students, staff, and the community,” a goal informed by school safety concerns;
- and that the district will maintain an 80 percent satisfaction rate with the community.