SILVER CREEK - As part of one of the Silver Creek Board of Education's goals to have 90 percent of students graduate, the board looked into solutions at a recent workshop.
High School Principal James Klubek explained there are several strategies the district will take to meet the board's goal.
He began by explaining the state considers a student a drop out if that student does not finish high school in four years or just transfers to another school, in addition to the common conception of "dropping out."
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Pictured Silver Creek Board of Education President Martha Howard and Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich look over plans to decrease the school’s dropout rate.
He said for a small school like Silver Creek just a few students can make the difference in reaching the board's goal of 90 percent.
"When you talk about the graduation rate, it was 77 or 78 percent but we had three students who need one class to graduate and they took that one class this summer. There were about 50 kids in the graduating class, three kids is about 6 percent so then you're at 86 percent just with those three students. So when we look at that 90 percent it is just a matter of a few students," Klubek said.
He said early progress reports are the key to identifying students at risk of not fulfilling credit requirements to graduate in four years.
"I think if we wait 10 or 20 weeks to look at reports and see if students are failing, it is too late for some of these students ... I think we should look at (progress reports) of students who are really struggling every two weeks ... to see before it is too late what can we do," he said.
He said another part of this is exit interviews to find out why students are leaving and what the district can do about it.
He also suggested career exploration as giving students a purpose for their learning.
In addition to these ideas Klubek also recommended a graduation coach to help ninth-graders get a good start to achieving graduation.
He used Akron School District as an example which has a full-time graduation coach who works with ninth-graders and at-risk tenth-graders, although there was not data available on the positions affected at the time of the presentation.
He suggested the position be a half-time teacher's aide with the board making a determination later whether to make it full-time based on the benefit.
He said a graduation coach would work with students and help them through ninth grade, with homework, organization, tutoring and being a liaison between the student and other services the school offers like counseling.
He explained usually teachers could fulfill this role but because of budget cuts 80 percent of teachers are at their contractual limit for duties.
Board President Martha Howard said she believes by the state publishing graduation rates, it pressures the district to look at high risk individuals.
"I think in New York state, to me, the way they do it they put the pressure on us to look at every child and see who's not going to make it. And now you can't forget kids, the pressure is on to be looking at ninth grade and see who is failing and why and what are we going to do about it ... So you can say, 'it's not fair,' and 'it's bad,' but it is forcing these conversations, it's forcing this work," she added.
The board did not make a decision on the graduation coach but will likely take action at the next meeting Sept. 12.