LaRue County High School’s 2011 graduation rate of 91.6 percent places it in the top 9 percent of Kentucky high schools.
“The LCHS rate, up 4.5 percent from the previous year, ranks 17th among the 224 Kentucky A1 high schools,” said Paul Mullins, LCHS principal. (An A1 school has a principal and site-based council.)
Among the 24 area high schools, LaRue ranked second, with top-ranked John Hardin showing a rate one-tenth of 1 percent (91.7) higher.
Graduation rates are based on a formula that compares the school’s number of graduates to its average class enrollment of freshmen in 2007-08 and sophomores in 2008-09. That formula will change next year when a replacement “cohort” model will track each student from his freshman year through graduation.
LaRue’s district graduation rate of 88.6 percent tied for 24th among the state’s 169 school districts that include students through grade 12.
“We are tied with Meade County for the top district rate in our region,” Mullins said, noting that LaRue, whose district rate rose 3.7 percent over the previous figure, ranked 33rd last year statewide, fifth in the region. The state average was 78 percent graduation rate.
Amanda Reed, district instructional supervisor, explained that the rates are not solely about seniors.
“It’s over a four-year period during which that class was moving through high school, so the rate on the class of 2011 is impacted by data that goes all the way back to when those kids were freshmen in 2007-08,” she noted.
“At that time, TLC (The Life Connection) was included in the student data system as part of the high school. Now, TLC is considered a separate school with separate graduation, attendance and enrollment data from LCHS.”
The increase in the graduation rate more than met school and district goals of being in the top 10 percent statewide.
“We’re getting our freshmen off to a good start; keeping kids on track to pass their classes; providing credit recovery options, and developing positive relationships with students and families,” Reed gave as reasons for the success.
“Research shows that if you can get students through the freshman year successfully, their chances of graduating increase,” she observed. “Students who fail classes their freshman year have started digging a hole that just keeps getting deeper over the years.”
To help prevent such failure, the school implemented a Freshman Academy and added a second counselor, Kelly Sandidge, as a colleague to veteran counselor Kristi Wright.
Keeping “kids on track” involves maintaining a watchful eye on student performance during the school year with specific interventions to help struggling students. Part of that plan includes using extended school services funds to hire extra assistants who work during the school day to help students bridge the academic gap.
“Second Chance is offered after school to assist students in making up credits, but the school has shifted its on-going help to during the school day,” Reed said.
Activity period, which formerly was used to minimize disruptions to the school day for club and class meetings, guest speakers, and pep rallies, became Intervention Period where teachers provide extra time and support for struggling students.
“The staff recognized the benefits to students and asked for a daily activity period which we call Academic Time,” Reed said.
LCHS counselors regularly hold individual conferences as well as classroom visits with students regarding their progress and also contact individual families as needed including parent nights for each grade level.
“Our guidance office is just one piece of the team puzzle that helps encourage students to stay in school,” Wright said. “It is a daily mutual effort from everyone in our school system … from the parents and guardians getting our students up each morning, to the students’ hopping on the bus and greeting a bus driver, to getting a healthy meal from the food service department, to walking in the classroom door to a wonderful teacher and assistant, to using services provided by our family resource and youth service centers, to shaking our board of education members’ hands at graduation. It takes us all to nurture a student.”
“In addition to what we’re doing in the halls of LCHS, we are working closely with our alternative center, The Nest, in providing an alternative learning environment for students who have that need,” Reed commented.
When students fail a class, they have the option to re-enroll in the course the following year, complete the course in summer school, or enroll in the Second Chance program that allows students to complete a course online outside the school day.
“Our students know we care about them individually and want to see them reach success,” Reed said. “They’re not just a number to us.”