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The Journal Gazette

FWCS grad rate up over 6 years, to 90%

It’s by design that a greater percentage of Fort Wayne Community Schools students are graduating compared with several years ago, school officials said Monday.

The district’s graduation rate jumped from 88.6 percent in 2012 to 90.7 percent last school year, according to Indiana Department of Education data released last month.

The FWCS rate has steadily increased over the past six years, rising from 75.3 percent in 2007 to 90.7 percent for 2013.

Northrop, Snider and Wayne high schools each saw gains in graduation rates. North Side and South Side had lower rates.

Snider had the highest graduation rate among public high schools in Allen County at 96.2 percent.

Assistant Superintendent Debra Faye Williams-Robbins on Monday outlined programs the district has implemented in recent years to help struggling students and provide additional opportunities to top-performing students.

And that personalization, Williams-Robbins said, is a key component in the district’s graduation rate success.

“We’re continuing to look at each individual student and adjust our instruction to meet their individual needs,” Williams-Robbins said.

By adding one counselor to each of the district’s five high schools and having the same counselor follow up with a student for several years, the district has been able to better track student success and help struggling students sooner, she said.

Another important component to the district’s success is rigor, Williams-Robbins told board members.

The district has added classes, increased dual-credit and Advanced Placement courses and has encouraged students to take responsibility in their education by tracking the classes they need to graduate.

“We also implemented programs of study that increased rigor and placed more emphasis on English/language arts, science, math and foreign languages,” she said.

Both teachers and students receive additional support, she added.

“Even though we are seeing gains in graduation rates, we know that this is a journey and not a race and that we can never rest,” Williams-Robbins said. “Our 90.7 percent is good, but as we move from good to great, we know that our moral purpose states ‘all students.’ ”

School board President Mark GiQuinta said the graduation rate is “really quite remarkable” especially when compared with other large, urban districts.

Statewide, 88.6 percent of students graduated in 2012-13, a slight dip from the 88.7 percent the year before.

Indianapolis Public Schools posted a 69.9 percent rate for 2011 but slipped to 65.4 percent in 2012 and 68.3 percent last school year.

“I’ve said many times, one test on one day is nothing but a diagnostic data point that helps us understand what it takes to get these students through to graduation,” GiaQuinta said, discussing the weight placed on ISTEP+ and other assessments. “It’s the graduation rate that indicates the success of the system.”