Paul W. Barada
As regular readers of his column are aware, I frequently write about the importance of education as the key to whatever nearly everyone hopes for or aspires to in life. One of the most important measures used to gauge how the public high schools in this state are doing is the calculation of each high school’s graduation rate. The graduation rate is based on the difference between the number of freshmen enrolling in a particular high school and the number who graduate as seniors, not counting students who transfer to or from another high school.
Readers should be very pleased to know that, according to the state’s Department of Public Instruction, the graduation rate for Rushville Consolidated High School for the academic year 2012 was 96.8 percent. That means that only 3.2 percent of last year’s seniors failed to graduate. Of 15 surrounding public high schools, RCHS ranked second in terms of its graduation rate. Only Yorktown had a higher graduation rate of 97.6 percent. That’s only .8 percent better than our rate. For the state as a whole, the graduation rate was only 88.1 percent among all public high schools, so RCHS was just slightly less than 10 percent above the state average. The other area high schools to which we were compared include New Palestine, Greensburg, Batesville, Delta, Pendleton Heights, Mt. Vernon, North Decatur, Knightstown, Shelbyville, Greenfield-Central, Franklin County, Connersville, New Castle and Yorktown.
Of all the schools mentioned, the one with the lowest graduation rate in 2012 was New Castle at only 87.7 percent, but our friends just north of us are doing much better than they did in 2007 when their graduation rate was only 70.8 percent. Between 2007 and 2012, RCHS has never even come close to a graduation rate that low. At our worst, which was in 2007, the graduation rate was 89.8 percent. So, over the last six years, our graduation rate has increased by 7 percent. It’s also worth noting that, among the schools previously listed, only three still had graduation rates of less than 90 percent. Also of interest is the fact that RCHS, over the past four years, has never had a graduation rate as low as the state average. We’ve always been significantly above it. In 2009, for instance, the graduation rate for RCHS was 89.4 percent while the state average was 81.5 percent. In 2010, our graduation rate was 92.8 percent and the state average was 84.1 percent. In 2011, our graduation rate went up to 95.9 percent while the state average was over 10 percent lower, at 85.7 percent. Over the last four years, the graduation rate at RCHS has gone up every year.
Admittedly, the differences between years and between schools are small, but noteworthy. For some unknown reasons, a couple of schools in this area have remained consistently lower than the rest. Surprisingly, they are Franklin County and New Castle. Greenfield-Central would be in that group except for 2010 when their graduation rate rose to 90.4 percent. Curiously, the year before, in 2009, their graduation rate was only 81.1 percent and dropped again in 2011 to only 86.5 percent. While it is safe to say that every public high school would like to see their graduation rates go up every year, that hasn’t always been the case, and it’s difficult to understand why with nothing more than the basic statistics to review. Every once in a while a smart class seems to come along in nearly every school that boosts their graduation ranking, but the ideal progress report one would like to see is a consistently rising graduation rate for every public high school.
The one thing that seems fairly certain is for those students who fail to earn a high school diploma life isn’t going to be easy. There are very few jobs anymore that don’t require at least a high school diploma. Take Rushville’s graduation rate as illustrative of the point. Converting the graduation rate of 96.8 percent to a base of 100 students would mean that a minimum of three students failed to graduate. While the reasons for that failure rate are unknown, it is generally true that lack of parental involvement is usually a major part of the reason. Other factors can play into the decision to drop out of high school; but, regardless of what the reasons are, lack of parental involvement is bound to be a significant factor in all of them. All one can really hope is those students who fail to earn a high school diploma will discover rather quickly the error of their decision and enroll in G.E.D. classes before the burdens of life make completing the courses overwhelming. Even though we’re talking about only three kids out of every 10-0 who don’t graduate (percentage-wise) those three kids are dooming themselves to lives of poverty, frustration, resentment and obscurity in some menial job (if they find a job at all!). It’s more likely, frankly, that they’ll end up on public assistance, which means you and I will be paying for the consequences of the poor decision they made while they were in school.
One balance, however, is that Rush County Schools is doing an outstanding job of helping local young people earn that high school diploma. Administrators, faculty and staff all contribute to the atmosphere of their respective schools. In our case, the atmosphere clearly is positive and conducive to encouraging students to stay in school and graduate.
From my perspective, there can be no good reason not to at least finish high school. No personal tragedy, no life situation, no contempt or envy of others, or anything else can ever justify dropping out of high school. No matter what the problem may be, there are people both within the school and outside who can help make any situation better, regardless of whether or not the parents are engaged in the life of the student.
All that notwithstanding, RCHS is going a fine job of making sure that the vast majority of our young people are getting a good start in life, and that’s something of which we can all be proud!
That’s -30- for this week.