Area schools near new standard

FAIRMONT – Area high school graduation rates are generally on par with a new statewide effort to reach 90 percent by 2020.?But there is work to be done.

The effort to increase graduation rates is led by Minnesota Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. Called the GradMinnesota initiative, it will connect the state to a nationwide movement that also includes closing achievement gaps.

Data compiled by the Minnesota Department of Education shows graduation rates from 2011 and 2012 for students completing their high school coursework in four years.

Fairmont Area graduated 88 percent of its students in 2011, and 91 percent in 2012. Martin County West graduated 98 percent in 2011 and 90 percent in 2012. At Blue Earth Area, 84 percent of seniors graduated in 2011, with 74 percent making the cut in 2012.

Schools graduating fewer than 40 students were not included in the listing.

The current average statewide rate is 77 percent.

Blue Earth Area Superintendent Evan Gough said his district was surprised by its low standing, and he believes it is not an accurate reflection. He suspects Elmore Academy’s rate may be included in Blue Earth Area’s statistics, since the facility for wayward youth is technically part of the district. School personnel are working to determine how the data was collected to get a better idea of why the number is so low.

Gough noted that in a school the size of Blue Earth Area, it would be difficult to have such a low rate and not know it. The district typically has about 100 students per grade, so it would be clear to everyone if 25 of them did not graduate.

In addition, the school lost 10 percentage points in the number of students graduating between 2011 and 2012.

“I am confident this isn’t an accurate portrayal,” Gough said.

Other districts were closer to the statewide goal.

Fairmont Area Superintendent Joe Brown said that while his district is right at the standard, he is not satisfied.

“My wish is that Fairmont Area Schools increases our graduation rate [so it] is close to 100 percent in the near future,” he said. “In order for this to happen, parents need to get their students to school on a regular basis; teachers need to be well prepared to deliver relevant and rigorous curriculum on a daily basis, and students need to put forth a strong effort in order to meet state and local graduation requirements.”

Brown said attendance is an issue at Fairmont, one the administration is looking hard at improving. He believes graduation rates will climb higher if the community makes an effort to ensure kids are in school on time.

“I believe that we have the potential to become one of the best school districts in the nation with our facilities, faculty, support staff and students, along with our community support,” he said.