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Advertisement Graduation rate at 85.71%
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · March 29, 2013


Six students dropped out of high school in the past four years, according to a report by Principal Michelle Lukavsky.


That’s about 2.16 percent of the entire student body at West Branch High School, or 1.52 percent of the seventh-through-12th grade population.

For comparison, the state’s dropout rate was 3.2 percent for high schools and 2.18 for 7-12 grades, according to a Feb. 27 report by the Iowa Department of Education.

On the flip side, the WBHS graduation rate was 85.71 percent for 2012. The state’s overall graduation rate for 2012 was 89.26 percent, higher than any other state in the nation.

Of those six who dropped out, five of them attended other schools during those four years, and the last one dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances, Lukavsky said.

Lukavsky gave the report to the West Branch Board of Education on March 11 stating that three of those six transferred into WBHS “severely behind in credits and older than their peers.”

Two others “bounced between school districts,” but did not start in West Branch.

“When they start in West Branch, they generally graduate,” she said.

Lukavsky said most students who leave WBHS to attend another school leave their freshman year. She also noted that students who transfer in or out between the freshman and seniors years are not counted in the dropout rate.

The principal said Dean of Students Jeff Wrede has been effectively increasing attendance by contacting parents when staff cannot account for a student’s whereabouts.

“We have not had to call the county attorney this year,” to report delinquent students, Lukavsky said.

The state also has high schools track the number of students who take five years to graduate; that is, they did not graduate on time, but stuck it out and finished the next year. So the fact that they eventually did graduate improves the numbers of the graduating class to which they were supposed to belong. For WBHS, three students fell into that category in 2012, boosting Class of 2011’s graduation rate to 94.92 percent.

Lukavsky said the different ways of figuring dropouts and graduations help the state to follow trends, though she does not understand why the state looks at 7-12 groups when teens are required by state law to attend school until they are 16 years old. Parents are legally responsible for a child’s attendance up to that point.

She said students who turn 16 during the school year must finish that school year.

“So most kids have to get through their sophomore year,” she said.

The principal said the children at risk of dropping out get a bit more support at West Branch with Kirkwood Community College nearby. The college offers classes for students in their fifth year, which can be more attractive than attending class with students who were once a year behind you, she said.

The most common reasons students struggle to stay in school, Lukavsky told the school board, are: transferring in while behind on credits, being older than their peers, truancy, poverty, lack of parental support, legal issues, and psychiatric needs.

“The hardest are kids who transfer in behind,” she said.

She said WBHS provides numerous options to help combat those challenges: learning strategies, a study table, parent meetings, special education referrals, independent study, shortened day, summer school, New Directions, and Kirkwood Count Day Agreements.

School board member Richard Paulus said he was glad to hear the school is making an effort to keep students on the path to graduation.

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