• Graduation Success: Identifying and Overcoming Challenging Demographic Factors to Reduce High School Dropouts

      Schultz, Robert W.
      The importance of students completing high school with a diploma is the focus of increasing social, economic, and political attention across the United States. Posing a strong challenge to efforts to increase graduation rates are several key demographic factors. This study examines, through a case study, an Indiana high school that overcame the challenge of negative demographic factors to achieve a graduation rate above the state average for four consecutive years (2006-2009). Researching databases maintained by the Indiana Department of Education revealed specific demographic factors that had a strong correlation to graduation rates in Indiana. The four demographic factors with the strongest negative correlation to graduation rates were percent of students on free lunch, percent of students from single parent families, percent of children in district with at risk mothers, and percent of families in district below the poverty level. The high school examined, through the case study in this project, exhibited student numbers at or above the state average in each of those four negative demographic factors and also achieved a graduation rate at or above the state average for the four consecutive years studied. To overcome the challenges of those negative factors, the high school maintains a child-centered focus that seeks to address both affective and academic needs of students. Seizing every opportunity every day to help every child is not only a stated goal, but a pervasive attitude. Two alternative schools, a vocational career center, online classes for credit recovery, smaller classes targeted for at-risk freshmen, after school tutoring programs, and involvement of community resources are some of the programs employed by the school to reduce dropouts. Staff members of the school work cohesively in support of both students and each other. The demonstrated successes of this high school provide models for other high schools to emulate.