SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 29, 2013

Column: Is Salem High School on the right track?

Robert M. Quist
The Salem News

---- — On Feb. 25, Principal Dave Angeramo and I, on behalf of the faculty and staff of Salem High School, presented a five-year (2008-2012) summary of Salem High School’s graduation rate, dropout rate and postsecondary going rate to the Salem School Committee. A copy of the PowerPoint presentation is available online on the SHS guidance website.

Graduation rate

To put into proper perspective, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education calculates and reports out on graduation rates. They utilize two different formulas to determine four- and five-year cohort graduation rates for each district and a four- and five-year adjusted graduation rate for each district.

For the Class of 2012, the four-year cohort graduation rate is calculated as:

The number of students in the cohort (denominator)

The number of first-time entering ninth-graders in 2008-2009 minus transfers out plus adding transfers

This means that any student who would have been a first-time entering ninth-grader in 2008-2009 who transfers into Salem High School regardless of credits earned is considered part of that cohort.

The 2012 four-year adjusted graduation rate is calculated as:

The number of students in the cohort (denominator) who graduate in four years or less

The number of first-time entering ninth-graders in 2008-2009 minus transfers out

The major difference between the two cohort calculations is that the adjusted graduation rate reflects only those students who started at Salem High School in the fall of 2008.

The five-year graduation rate and adjusted graduation rate are calculated with the same formula over five years.

When reviewing results, it is important to keep in mind that one year in and of itself is not necessarily an indication of overall results or lack of results. Looking at it from a longitudinal perspective gives a clearer picture of trends and whether we are on the right track.

Over the past five years, we have moved our four-year graduation rate from 68.3 percent (2008) to 78 percent (2012). During that same time frame, our four-year adjusted graduation rate has gone from 71 percent to 86 percent. The five-year graduation rate has gone from 70.8 percent (2008) to 86.9 percent (2011). The five-year adjusted graduation rate has gone from 74.1 percent to 88.9 percent (2011).

The Class of 2012 five-year graduation rates will not be available until next year.

Dropout rate

The dropout cohort rate is calculated in a manner similar to the graduation rate. The 2008 dropout rate includes those students whose cohort were first-time grade-nine students in 2004-2005. The four-year dropout rate went from 18.9 percent (2008) to 8.8 percent (2012). The four-year adjusted dropout rate went from 17.2 percent (2008) to 5.5 percent (2012). The five-year dropout rate went from 18.2 percent (2008) to 6.1 percent ( 2011). The adjusted five-year dropout rate went from 16.5 percent to 6.1 percent (2011).

The percentage of Salem High School students reporting attending postsecondary institutions of learning since 2008 has fluctuated 87 percent to 91 percent. Prior to 2008, Salem High School students’ postsecondary plans were in the 84-to-85 percent range.

We at Salem High School believe we are on the right track to meeting the needs of all our students. We are committed to continuing to improve our graduation rate and decreasing the dropout rate.

The following are some of the initiatives and programs instituted at Salem High School:

Development of intervention programs, such as creating Salem Prep in 2007.

Revising/revamping the after-school alternate high school, Bridge Academy, which is now part of the regular school day.

The creation of a summer school credit recovery program located at Salem High School in 2006. Prior to 2006, students who failed one or more courses would need to travel to other area cities. The reality was that very few students did this and would fall behind in their ability to graduate and become more at risk for dropping out.

Increased English-language learners summer programs.

Creation of an after-school credit recovery program and implementing “Nova Net,” which is a hybrid online standards-based credit recovery program.

Increasing MCAS remediation programs/tutoring.

Active implementation of grade-level child study teams.

Development of common planning time for grade-level core subject teams.

Continued professional development for all faculty/staff to better meet the needs of our students.

Collaboration with Salem community organizations such as Salem CyberSpace, Salem State University, North Shore Community College.

Full-time community outreach person.

As we look ahead with our class of 2013 and beyond, Salem High School is on the right track and will continue to be committed to all our students and their families.

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Robert M. Quist is director of guidance and counseling at Salem High School. This is one in a series of columns from the Community Advisory Board for the Salem schools.