Johnson County graduation rates clear state average

All six Johnson County high schools graduate seniors at a higher rate than the state as a whole.

The Indiana Department of Education released 2022 graduation rate data in December, showing the six county schools surpassed the state graduation rate of 86.6%. It is at least the ninth consecutive year all six schools performed better than public high schools in the state as a whole, according to IDOE data that goes back to 2014.

Center Grove High School had the county’s highest graduation rate, with 96.4% of 2022 seniors collecting their diplomas, an increase from 95.6% in 2021, according to the data.

With school leaders adding courses, such as human and social services, fashion and textiles, culinary arts and business administration to help students fulfill graduation pathways requirements, students are more likely to meet the graduation criteria outlined by the IDOE. Students also have an Always Improving Myself, or AIM period, during which they can catch up on classes they’ve fallen behind in, said Jeffry Henderson, the high school’s principal.

“It’s a period of time built into the school day. Kids can get help from content area experts in subjects they’re struggling with. Teachers can call them in to finish their homework or make up a missed quiz or test,” he said.

Students also have a STAR period, which stands for Students, Teachers And Relationships. Students have the same STAR teacher all four years of high school, who can serve as someone to talk to or help them work through any difficulties they might be facing, Henderson said.

Franklin Community High School had its graduation rate decrease from 90.6% in 2021 to 88.7% in 2022, tied with Whiteland Community High School for the lowest rate in the county. Leaders from Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation disputed IDOE data, instead referring to internal reporting stating 93% of students graduated in 2022. School officials were still trying to resolve the discrepancy Friday.

Kim Preston, the IDOE’s assistant secretary for external affairs, said she was uncertain why there would be a discrepancy, and denied there being widespread issues with data reporting in Indiana.

Flat-Rock Hawcreek School Corporation officials in Bartholomew County also disputed the data, according to an article in The (Columbus) Republic.

Pandemic learning loss, which affected the Class of 2022 during most of their high school careers, likely played a role in Franklin High School’s graduation rate decrease, Principal Steve Ahaus said in an email.

“It is clear the pandemic played a significant role in that dip,” Ahaus said. “We had a number of enrolled students that struggled to keep up with classes and credits during that time period.”

The online Franklin Academy is in place to help students graduate through credit recovery programs during the school year and over the summer. Summer credit recovery can also help bridge the gap between the graduation rates of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch and those whose families pay the full price, Ahaus said.

Nowhere in Johnson County was the difference between income groups more pronounced than at Greenwood Community High School, which had an 89.2% graduation rate in 2022. There, 84.5% of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch graduated last year compared to 95.5% of their peers who didn’t receive discounted meals, according to IDOE data.

Addressing how to help students from low-income families achieve at the same rate as their classmates is a continuous priority for administrators, said Michael Gasaway, principal.

“Every other week we have a group of teachers, counselors and administrators that meet to discuss targeted groups: free and reduced, minority populations, to have conversations about what we need to do more proactively to bring them in,” Gasaway said.

The school district has early dismissal on Wednesdays. Helping those students after school each Wednesday is one possible solution, as is having an hour built into the school day so students who have fallen behind can work on completing assignments, he said.

Edinburgh and Indian Creek high schools both were among the top three graduation rates in Johnson County behind Center Grove, with 91.8% of Edinburgh seniors earning their diplomas last year and 91.1% of Indian Creek seniors crossing the stage at graduation. Although the Indian Creek rate is a decrease from 96.4% in 2021, Principal Luke Skobel said it is still above the 90% goal administrators have.

At Indian Creek High School, helping students fulfill graduation requirements involves meetings between educators and parents, Skobel said.

“We’re trying to make sure freshmen and sophomores are on track with where they need to be,” he said. “We meet a few times each year with the counseling department and administrators to talk about students who have fallen off track and meet with parents to come up with a plan that ultimately results in them graduating.”

Edinburgh Community High School is the smallest in Johnson County, with just 49 seniors in 2022. Having such a small school allows each student to receive more individualized attention, leading to a higher graduation rate, said Ron Ross, superintendent of Edinburgh Community School Corporation.

“At Edinburgh Community School Corporation, students are not just numbers. Our staff knows our students and has a relationship with each one,” Ross said in an email. “We work with students and their families to remove barriers and get them to cross that stage after four years.”