News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 12, 2013

Vigo schools graduation rate leads state

At 92.2 percent, Vigo County has highest rate within Indiana Urban Schools Association

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Corp.’s high school graduation rate jumped to 92.2 percent for 2011-12, which is higher than the state average of 87.9 percent.

In addition, the school district’s graduation rate is the highest among the 10 largest urban school districts that make up the Indiana Urban Schools Association.

Superintendent Dan Tanoos attributed the success to the hard work of many, including teachers, administrators, parents, students, the school board, all VCSC staff and community partners.

“It takes all the ingredients in a community to help our schools be successful,” he said.

At a time when some elected officials have been saying that public schools are failing, Tanoos said his challenge to his staff has been, “Let’s make them look wrong. … Let’s show them how an urban district with 56 percent of students on free and reduced[-cost] lunches can be successful.”

Among the factors contributing to success, he listed the focus on curriculum and instruction — particularly in the core areas of reading, writing and math — with constant in-service updates for staff.

The district has two alternative programs, McLean High School and Booker T. Washington High School, that help meet the needs of all students. “Our board has made a commitment,” Tanoos said. “It’s not cheap.”

The career-technology programs offered in high school prepare students to enter the workforce right after graduation, if that is their choice. Those programs work with business and industry to ensure schools are providing the right curriculum and instruction.

The district also works to locate students who are not enrolled or not attending school consistently.

Tanoos noted that the district “has a great working relationship with the prosecutor,” who is willing to prosecute parents for educational neglect if they are not sending their children to school. Attendance has been a big issue, with some students missing 30, 40, 50 or more days of school a year, Tanoos said.

The district announced its 2012 graduation rates during a news conference attended by several community leaders Monday afternoon.

The graduation rate has steadily grown, from 73.4 percent in 2007 to 92.2 percent this past year.

Tanoos said the graduation rate is especially significant given the community’s high poverty rate. About 56 percent of VCSC students now qualify for free/reduced lunches.

 Improving graduation rates has been a “primary goal” of the school district for several years, said Board President Paul Lockhart. “This has been truly a joint team effort,” he said.

He added, “We all know the importance of a high school education both in terms of lifetime earnings as well as opening other educational opportunities. Many employers today won’t even consider a person for a job unless they do have at least a high school education.”

Mayor Duke Bennett described the improved graduation rate as “pretty amazing.”

While public education in general has been subject to much criticism in recent years, the VCSC graduation rate shows, “We can do things locally, we can do things the way they’re supposed to be done” to get kids prepared for life, Bennett said.

Karen Goeller, deputy superintendent, said Monday’s announcement is a time “to celebrate great teaching.”

Stacy Mason, executive director of secondary education, said the high school leaders are able to “get creative and work together as a team to make every student successful.”

The improved graduation rate is a selling point when it comes to attracting business and industry to Vigo County, said Claudia Tanoos, vice president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. It indicates that Vigo County “is great place to get a prepared workforce.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

2012 Graduation Rate for

Top 10 Indiana Urban School Districts

School District    Enrollment    2012 Graduation Rate

Fort Wayne Community Schools    30,821    87.1 percent

Indianapolis Public Schools    28,193    66.1 percent

Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp.    22,799    82.3 percent

South Bend Community School Corp.    20,156    76.8 percent

M S D Wayne Twp.    16,277    87.8 percent

Vigo County School Corp.    15,601    92.2 percent

M S D Lawrence Twp.    14,878    84.3 percent

M S D Perry Twp.    14,448    91.7 percent

School City of Hammond    13,744    68.4 percent

Elkhart Community Schools    12,567    84.5 percent

        

Indiana (all schools, urban and rural)    1,041,602    87.9 percent