Local schools rank 37th in graduation rates; might be higher

By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

Earlier this month, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that 2016 graduation rates across the state increased for the sixth consecutive year, reaching a record high. According to his report, the national average was 83.2 percent and Connecticut’s state average was 87.4 percent last year.

But how did Southington students do? The state numbers have Southington’s graduation hovering around 98 percent. Southington High School was ranked 37th out of 203 public, private, and magnet schools.

Superintendent of schools Tim Connellan said that the actual number could be even higher.

While some students do not finish their graduation requirements in time for the June commencement date, most finish their degree requirements by the conclusion of summer school. Connellan said that, because of that, just about every Southington student earns a diploma by late August.

“For us, that’s 100 percent, whether or not the state says that,” he said.

Connellan said administrators, faculty, and staff aren’t as concerned with the state data, which tracks students over their four year high school careers and across districts. Instead, Southington’s focus is set squarely on students in the system.

“The biggest difference is the cohort [measurement] versus a senior class,” Connellan said.

Data from the State Department of Education tracks groups of students in the same graduating class that are working on the same curriculum (cohorts). Their numbers track students over four years through various formulas and calculations. The data includes students that move between districts, don’t graduate on time, transfer to private school, etc.

To calculate their graduation rate, Southington compares the number of seniors that enter in the fall compared to those that actually earn a degree—whether it takes them summer school or alternate programs to complete their quest.

Connellan said that the town has early intervention programs, and ongoing support. The goal is always 100 percent graduation. Even when students are expelled, there are programs in place to keep them on pace to earn a high school degree.

“Right from grade 9, teams focus on students having difficulty moving to the next grade level,” Connellan said. “They intervene in an effective way to meet the criteria.”

Southington High School principal Brian Stranieri said there are presently 490 seniors in the 2017 class, and he expects about a 99 percent graduation rate, which would put Southington well into the top 10 percent of state and national graduation rates. He even noted the school’s recent perfect record.

“The class of 2015 had 508 students and 503 received diplomas at commencement ceremonies in June,” said Stranieri. “Five seniors went to summer school and received their diplomas in July, so 100 percent of the class graduated that year. I cannot think of another time that this occurred in my 15 year administrative career.”

Following graduation, Connecticut—and Southington—officials track the number of students that pursue higher education in the fall immediately following graduation. As of 2014, 75 percent of SHS graduates were enrolled in colleges and universities, compared to the state average of 68 percent.

“There are a pretty high percentage of students who go into higher education in one way, shape, or form,” said Connellan. “But the lines are blurred due to economics. Some students cannot afford school.”

Connellan also noted students that enter the military or start careers straight from high school might skew the overall number even though they might eventually pursue college at a later date. The superintendent said he wants to look into a graduate follow-up study of students in their first year out of SHS.

“I’m interested in creating a way to do that for us,” he said. “I want to reach all of our graduates.”

No matter what scale is used, Southington is above average in the state and the nation. This year’s graduation is scheduled for Tuesday, June 20, at 5:30 p.m., and the goal is always the same: No child left behind.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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