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Big grad rate gains for East Gadsden

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By Cheri Harris

There are numbers stories — and there are numbers stories to get excited about.

East Gadsden High School’s graduation rate for the 2011-12 school year soared compared to the prior school year, jumping from 65.61 percent to 81.42 percent.

Gadsden School District’s federal graduation rate also climbed 6.3 percentage points, from 55.1 percent in 2010-11 to 61.4 percent for 2011-12.

EGHS Principal Kimball Thomas credited the efforts of students, teachers, administrators and counselors for the school’s improvement and said he was “ecstatic.”

“It is really a village effort for this to happen,” he said.

He was particularly pleased with the improvement because it came in a high school with the second-highest number of at-risk students in the Big Bend Area, behind James Rickards High School in Leon County, which also has an academically rigorous International Baccalaureate program — and it’s where Thomas served as principal from 1993 to 1997.

“It’s just a crowning moment for the school and the community,” said Thomas, who is in his second year at EGHS.
He said teachers are intervening with at-risk students by tracking their performance and sharing the information with students, developing a non-threatening partnership with them so they know what they need to accomplish to stay on track for graduation.

At the end of each grading period, Thomas said they celebrate three things: attitude, academics and attendance. AT EGHS, that translates to celebrations for those with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, who have perfect attendance, or who have no referrals for discipline.

Students are deemed at risk of not graduating based on low reading scores in ninth grade. 71.64 percent of the 2011-12 EGHS class was considered at-risk.

Starting in 2011, federal rules required states to calculate a four-year graduation rate including only standard diplomas.

Students who graduate with a special diploma, GED or certification of completion are not included. Students who take more than four years to complete high school are also not counted in the current rate.

School district spokeswoman Shaia Beckwith said based on the current federal graduation rate, EGHS, with a class of 183, is No. 4 in the six-county Big Bend Area, not counting the lab schools.

West Gadsden High School’s federal graduation rate went from 82.86 percent in 2010-11 to 71.79 percent in 2011-12 with a class of 78 students.

Statewide, the federal graduation rate rose 3.9 percentage points for the 2011-12 school year, moving to 74.5 percent of students graduation from high school in four years. According to a Florida Department of Education press release, this is the largest single-year increase the state has seen in the federal graduation rate since 2003. The rate has climbed 18 percentage points since then.

According to a school district press release, Schools Superintendent Reginald James assures community members, parents, students and staff that the district will continue to focus on increasing the graduation rate.

The school district’s total 2011-12 federal graduation rate also includes the alternative program at Carter Parramore Academy, with a total class of 51 and a graduation rate of 19.61 percent.