Figures released Friday show that graduation rates at most high schools in the Pharos-Tribune area increased with the class of 2009.

The rates increased anywhere from 2.6 percent at Winamac to 11.9 percent at Carroll. Logansport High School was the only school where the number declined, but just 2.6 percent.

According to the Indiana Department of Education, Logansport had a graduation rate of 79.5 percent, down from 82.1 percent in 2008. That compares to a statewide average of 81.5 percent, up from 77.8 percent in 2008.

“I have a little concern in that we’ve slipped a little,” said Jack Gardner, the principal at Logansport High School. “We had been the top performing high school in Cass County. That has always been a point of pride for us, and we’d like to regain that title for sure.”

Even with the drop of a few percentage points, Gardner said he thinks Logansport still fared well against other urban schools in the North Central Conference.

Logansport’s graduation rate for 2009 was 20 percentage points better than Anderson High School and 10 percentage points above the graduation rate in Marion.

“We’re on par with Kokomo High School,” Gardner said.

Gardner explained Logansport’s graduation rate is also affected by the number of special needs and English as a new language students attending school in Logansport.

“We almost need an asterisk next to our statistics explaining that a lot of those area students are sent to our schools,” he said.

The education department announced Friday that 76 percent of high schools improved their graduation rates from 2008 to 2009, and 27 percent recorded a graduation rate of 90 percent or better last year.

Among the schools with a 90-percent graduation rate were Carroll and Delphi. Pioneer and Winamac were each just one student away from achieving 90 percent. Lewis Cass High School was five students short of that benchmark.

Carroll saw an improvement of 12 percentage points in its graduation rate from 2008 to 2009.

But some schools are still struggling. Fifteen Indiana high schools had a graduation rate of 50 percent or less.

Gardner said rates are often cyclical and change from year to year depending on the strength of a given graduating class.

“It’s surprising how easy the dynamic within a class can really affect that percentage rate,” he said.

Logansport schools have worked consistently to improve their rates through the Logansport Learning Academy, Gardner said.

The corporation began using the academy about five years ago. Its purpose is to encourage those students who have failed a core class to recover in that subject area.

“We have been a leader in that area,” the principal said. “For those students who have failed English, math, social studies, this is a way of getting them into an environment where they can excel and get those credits.”

Gardner said about 30 students in each graduating class had completed course work in the academy since its inception.

“The plan has always been to individualize a student’s program around their strengths and weaknesses and their schedule, and we will continue on that track,” he said. “Our goal has always been to tailor programs to students to meet needs so that we are successful.”

Gardner said the school corporation plans to continue to look at programs to “help lift some of our lower performing students to success.”

One program the district is considering is The Crossing, an alternative school designed specifically for students who have already dropped out. According to state statistics, 90 students in Logansport dropped out of school from 2005 to 2008.

“It is under study,” Gardner said. “We want to look at the next jump and reach out to students that have completely dropped out of school and see if there is a way to reach out to them.”

In the meantime, Gardner predicts the graduation rate will be back up in 2010.

“We have a really strong class,” he said. “Logansport continues to be a school that is doing great things with a very diverse student population.

“In fact, many have looked at our school and feel we are doing amazingly well. We want to be the top in the state, so we are not satisfied. We are always wanting to do better.”

• Jennifer Tangeman is a reporter for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or jennifer.tangeman@pharostribune.com.

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