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Iowa City School District mirrors national grad rate numbers

BY REBECCA MORIN | FEBRUARY 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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High-school students across the nation are hitting the books — but they aren’t stopping there.

A study released on Jan. 23 by the U.S. Department of Education says high-school graduation rates are at the highest level since 1974. In 2005-06 there was a 73.4 percent graduation rate, whereas in 2009-10 there was a 78.2 percent rate — an increase of almost 5 percentage points.

In Iowa City, school officials said the graduation rates are also high due to a strong support system for students.

Several education officials said the trend of increased graduates is heading in the right direction. Not only has there been an increase in the number of graduates, there has been an approximate 10 percent increase of minority graduates from the school year 2005-06 to 2009-10.

“The trend, generally, has been the same for whites over the years, but it is high,” Harold Brown, president of EDWorks, said. “There have been some gains in minorities, especially Spanish-speaking students and special-education students.”

The Iowa City School District is on the same track. The district’s graduation rate is roughly 88.1 percent graduation rate, said Kate Moreland, community relations’ coordinator for the district.

Programs such as the Success Center, tutoring, and the concern of teachers have also contributed to West High’s very limited dropout rate, Jerry Arganbright, West High School’s principal, said.

“We also have our councilors who meet with the students every trimester to see how they are doing in their classes,” Arganbright said. “They will also call their parents if they see that their child is having trouble in a couple of their classes.”

Brown said the increase in government control helps schools stay on track.

“The reason the increase of high-school graduates has happened is because there is a stronger emphasis for the school from the government,” Brown said. “There are federal grants, increase of funding, and threat of closing schools down.”

One University of Iowa College of Education professor echoed those sentiments.

“I believe in the ongoing Iowa Assessments program,” Professor Stephen Dunbar said. “On a local level it provides students to stay on track.”

West High also receives a grant that allows students who stay late to study and do not have a ride home to call taxis. In addition to the taxi service, West also offers a different way to obtain a high-school diploma for “nontraditional” students.

“We also have a program called Phoenix that allows students to get graduation credits online,” Arganbright said. “It’s for kids who can’t do schoolwork through class.”

Getting a high-school diploma is a step toward success, and Arganbright said school officials are trying their best to help students reach that steppingstone.

“Students have to work to fail here, there is a lot of support for the school and for students to succeed,” he said.


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