Cape Girardeau School Board wants to see data on achievement initiative

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cape Girardeau School Board members want to see evidence of how the district's graduation rate is being helped by a student achievement initiative now modeled at the high school and slated to go districtwide in the next school year.

Board members requested that administrators gather and present data relating to the district's graduation rate at the board's next regular meeting.

Board member Paul Nenninger came to the meeting with a list of questions and data requests related to a professional learning community model adopted by the high school with board approval in 2003. He questioned superintendents on why the high school did not seem to be enjoying the success offered by the model as reflected in the district's "on-time" graduation rate, which was 67.5 percent in 2011.

Nenninger said the board receives reports on the model and goals of a comprehensive school improvement plan, but the reports do not indicate problems or a failure to work.

"But our graduation rate continues to fall," he said.

The high school has used several components of a learning communities model since the state-sponsored initiative began in the 2003-2004 school year. The state's model focuses on increasing student achievement by building the capacity of school personnel to create and sustain the conditions that promote high levels of student and adult learning, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Assistant superintendent Sherry Copeland said good results being reported by districts throughout the state are due to models being fully implemented and used throughout those districts and not just one school. She said it typically takes three years for complete implementation and results to be seen.

Superintendent Jim Welker said he is optimistic that full implementation of the model will increase student achievement and improve graduation rates.

"I think our goal is to implement the professional learning communities model districtwide so that we can do it at an in-depth level," he said.

Districtwide implementation of the model requires that staff undergo professional development training, which has been ongoing.

Welker and Copeland said they would present data on the effectiveness of the high school's model so far, as well as data on the effects of a high rate of student mobility in the district, which is thought to be a factor in the district's graduation rate.

Two methods

Welker said the district will continue to keep tabs on the percentages of students graduating in the district by looking at the "on-time" four-year cohort method and the traditional "leaver method" used by the state to calculate rates. The district's graduation rate in 2011 using the leaver method was 76.9 percent. That method does not affect a district's graduation rate if a student takes more than four years to graduate. The four-year cohort method, which states adopted this year as required by the U.S. Department of Education to align calculation methods, does not count a student as a graduate if requirements take more than four years to complete.

Welker said that based on preliminary numbers, he believes the district's rates will be up for 2012. Official rates are released by the state annually in the late summer.

Board member Don Call said he was concerned with the high school's student mobility rate, which according to Cape Girardeau Central High School principal Mike Cowan is unmanageable and hurts graduation rates each year. In the 2011-2012 school year, 327 students enrolled late, transferred to another district or dropped out.

Welker said the mobility rate presents its own challenges but that there are many others that also affect the graduation rate.

"I think the thing we try to do is not make excuses about our graduation rate," Welker said. "We know that it needs to go up, and we've been working on getting it up, and I think it will be going up in the future. We have to continually work to do everything we can, and we're going to help students even if they don't make it in four years. We want to help them to continue on and graduate high school. That's our goal."

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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