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QHS Graduation Rate Posts Steady Climb

QHS graduation rate posts steady climb

Thursday, August 3, 2006
By Holly Wagner

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Graduation rates at Quincy High School have risen steadily over the past five years and it appears the 2005-06 rate will continue the trend.

"I'm projecting the graduation rate at 87.6," Principal Terry Ellerman said.

Statistics will be final this fall, he said, but early indications are that the rate has risen 13.2 percentage points since 2000-01.

Ellerman credited the upswing to "a lot of different things ... We're being more aggressive in all sorts of ways to help students be more successful."

As a result, Ellerman believes the dropout rate will show an improvement over a year ago as well.

Assistant Principal Tim Kreinberg said QHS has instituted several programs over the past few years, partly under the impetus of No Child Left Behind. NCLB brings sanctions unless a specific percentage of students meet or exceed state standards.

Among those programs is the smaller learning communities, which counselor Michael Llewellyn said "focus on seeing where there might be trouble earlier, catching it sooner."

Students have a teacher advocate who can work on their behalf with other teachers and deans.

There also has been an emphasis on preparing students better for the ACT and Prairie State Achievement Exam.

"We're teaching them how these tests are structured so they perform better and have more confidence," Llewellyn said.

Summer school and changes made to ensure that QHS' curriculum is in alignment with state standards and tests also help. Teachers, counselors, the attendance office and administrators communicate better. Together they look at students who are at risk academically and determine what interventions are necessary to help them succeed, Ellerman said.

"It's all part of the mix," he said. "Every teacher is taking an individual approach to improving the climate to be more student-friendly.

We have a schoolwide mission to do whatever it takes for students to be successful."

While it's good to see the graduation rate continue to climb, "I'm not happy with 87.6," Ellerman said. "I'd like to see every student be successful."

Quincy is catching up to the state average. The statewide graduation rate also has risen steadily, climbing from 81.8 percent in 1997-98 to 87.4 for 2004-05, according to the state's School Report Card.

However, whether these statistics represent an accurate picture of the state of Illinois high schools is subject to debate. Two reports released this summer looked at the state's graduation rate for 2002-03. That year the state claimed 86 percent of high schoolers graduated, while the rate was 78.5 percent for QHS.

According to reports released in June by the Education Research Center and by the National Center for Educational Statistics, only about 76 percent of Illinois students graduated on time that year. The Research Center ranked Illinois' graduation rate at 14th in the nation.

Calculating a graduation rate is not as simple as comparing the number of students who enter ninth grade with the number who graduate from 12th. Students transfer into and out of the district, some may graduate early while others may take five years or earn a GED.

States are allowed to determine their own formula for reporting graduation statistics.

QHS uses the state model, which compares the number of entering freshman with the number of graduates four years later, accounting for transfers.

"It's complicated," Ellerman said. Whether or not the system is flawed, he said, "I know we're on the right track."

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