Survey takes on graduation rates

May 24th, 2014

News Coverage:

Survey takes on graduation rates

Missing school a critical factor, principals say

Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014 11:00 pm | Updated: 11:20 pm, Sat May 24, 2014.

By Jennifer Decker

As local seniors graduate, some students won’t be receiving diplomas for various reasons. Attendance may be the biggest factor according to area principals.

That was a result of a survey by The Big Goal Collaborative’s High School Graduation Action Team. Surveys were distributed to the region’s high school principals — including those in DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble and Steuben counties — regarding common issues affecting individual student graduation.

Participants were asked to choose their top five common indicators among students who do not graduate. The top five issues identified by principals were: attendance issues, 94.74 percent; challenging home life, 73.68 percent; behavioral issues, 68.42 percent; failing grades, 63.16 percent; and difficulty reading, 57.89 percent.

County comparisons

Ryan Twiss, director of Big Goal Collaborative, said data is analyzed by free and reduced lunches and English language learners.

Big Goal Collaborative works to increase the number of northeast Indiana residents with high-quality degrees to a goal of 60 percent by 2025. The collaborative is a partnership consisting of 10 counties: Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties.

When the Indiana Department of Education released graduation results earlier this year, the state average was 88.6. Four-county schools that exceeded the state average were DeKalb, 92.2 percent; Lakeland, 91.8 percent; Garrett, 91.6 percent; Eastside, 91.1 percent; Westview, 90.7 percent; and Fremont 89.7 percent.

The highest and lowest graduation rates in each county were DeKalb, highest, and Eastside lowest in DeKalb; LaGrange County had Lakeland highest at 91.8 percent and the lowest was Prairie Heights, 87.3 percent; Noble County’s high was West Noble, 83.8 percent and Central Noble lowest at 78.1 percent; and Steuben’s highest was Fremont, 89.7 percent, and lowest was the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County, 82.5 percent.

Other factors

The Indiana Youth Institute has studied factors affecting graduation rates and found poverty, safety, stability at home and school and positive role models have major effects. IYI promotes healthy development of Indiana children by serving communities impacting their well being.

IYI develops plans by dissecting school data through five critical youth development areas: academic achievement, civic engagement, economic self-sufficiency, emotional fulfillment and physical health and safety.

One statistic with major impact shows impoverished children number more than 23 percent in LaGrange County, less than 17 percent in DeKalb County, and 17-23 percent in Steuben and Noble counties.

More organizations work with that sector of the population.

“One of the ways that we support these communities is by hosting Youth Worker Cafes,” said Juanita Mejia-Goodwell, IYI field staff representative. “At these cafes, we focus on bringing a resource and/or information related to issues that address their communities that would have impact on their youth. It is an opportunity for these communities to connect, communicate and collaborate.”

More help is on the way

Judy Sorg, director of the Learning Link, an education initiative at the Community Foundation DeKalb County, Auburn, said its vision is: “Working together to improve the quality of life for all through continuous learning. It is rarely possible anymore to make a sustainable living without some form of post-high school education. Higher levels of skills are needed in the workforce.”

She gave a few pointers to help kids stay in school and graduate: keep students engaged by providing safe, secure, trusting relationships between students and caring adults; encourage students to ask for help; find a mentor to spend one-on-one time with a student; involve parent engagement from early in a child’s school career; introduce students early to career options; and encourage curriculum that’s rigorous and focused on real world problems.

Sorg said her office at 650 W. North St., Auburn, can offer direction to those interested in resources.

Another resource is Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program. It is a needs- and performance-based program providing students with the chance to earn a four-year scholarship to an Indiana college or university.

Enrollment commits a student to maintain academic success while remaining drug- and alcohol-free and completing college-preparation activities. Scholars are assisted in preparing for college and nonscholarship expenses.

For more details on IYI, visit

For more details on Big Goal Collaborative, visit

For more details on Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars, visit

Four counties at a glance from 2012 statistics:

DeKalb County: median household income, $48,116;

• 17 percent of children live in poverty; national average is 22.6 percent;

• 33.6 percent receive free lunches;

• unemployment rate, 8.9 percent, 8.4 percent national average;

• 31.6 percent child abuse/neglect rate per 1,000;

• 13.2 percent special education students.

LaGrange County: median household income, $47,870;

• 20.8 percent children live in poverty; 22.6 percent national average;

• 32.8 percent students receive free lunches;

• 7.9 percent average unemployment rate, 8.4 percent national average;

• 7.7 percent child abuse/neglect rate per 1,000 children under 18;

• 12.9 percent special education students;

Noble County: median household income, $44,192;

• 21.2 percent of children in poverty, the national average is 22.6 percent;

• 33.6 percent receive free lunches;

• 8.9 percent unemployment, national average is 8.4 percent;

• 31.6 percent child abuse/neglect rate per 1,000, national average, 12.5 percent;

• 13.2 percent special education students.

Steuben County: median household income, $46,412;

• 20.5 percent of children in poverty. The national average is 22.6 percent;

• 36.7 percent receive free lunches; the unemployment rate was 8.9 percent;

• child abuse/neglect rate per 1,000 children under 18, 18.5 percent;

• 14.7 percent special education students, 14.9 percent national average.