Elkhart Central High School in Elkhart and Adams High School in South Bend are among those recognized this year by the Indiana Department of Education for dramatically increasing the number of students graduating from high school for the 2010-2011 school year.
Elkhart Central High School
- Graduation rate in 2010 - 67.7 percent
- Graduation rate in 2011 - 78.3 percent
Adams High School
- Graduation rate in 2010 - 63.7 percent
- Graduation rate in 2011 - 77 percent
Total Increase: 13.4 percent
Both schools say they credit the increase to a lot of hard work by teachers, staff and students.
Sarah Miles works for Elkhart Central High School. She spends much of her day making phone calls and knocking on doors.
"I track down kids that are missing from school," says Miles proudly, "that is all I do, all day long."
Miles is an attendance social worker ... but she could be called the attendance detective. When kids don't show up to school, she goes looking for them.
"I have all their contact information. Parents names, addresses, phone numbers, that kind of thing. And I just start knocking on doors," says Miles.
Miles knocked on Elkhart senior Tim Stahl's door. He was struggling with the death of someone close to him and school wasn't his top priority.
"I knew I needed to go to school," says Stahl, "I just couldn't motivate myself in the morning to get up and do what I needed to do."
A combination of help from his mom, support from friends and a knock on the door by Miles helped get him back to school ... and on track to graduate in June.
And while Miles' job is to get kids into the building, it is up to the teachers and staff to get them to graduate.
"You name it, it is just a team effort in this building," says Elkhart Central Principal Frank Serge. "Everybody works hard to try to keep kids on track."
Serge says the school put several programs in place four or five years ago that are paying off big time.
The school implemented a Freshman Academy Program. Students are paired with the help and services they need. Serge says, this program alone has reduced Fs among freshman between 50 and 70 percent because it has eased the transition for students between their 8th and 9th grade years.
Each student in high school has an adviser who reviews their grades weekly and establishes a relationship with the student and parents.
Also, a data team for each area of study analyzes grades within that area. Kids who are not doing well get an intervention.
The school has also started a "writing across the curriculum" program. Each student is required to write one essay per month, per class. Serge says there is a 90 percent completion rate right now.
An estimated 85 percent of students at Elkhart Central are expected to earn their diploma in June.
"And I think it will continue to improve," says Serge, "you know our goal is to reach 90 percent but I will be honest with you, I don't know if that is going to be possible. But we are going to work to come close to that."
No matter what, Serge says, teachers and attendance detectives at Central are not giving up.
Local School District Graduation Rates 2011 (2010) 2009
South Bend: 76.9 percent (73.6 percent) 71.3 percent
Mishawaka: 77.4 percent (77.5 percent) 73 percent
Penn-Harris-Madison: 92.3 percent (87.5 percent) 85.1 percent
Elkhart: 83 percent (75.4 percent) 70.4 percent
Goshen: 80.4 percent (82.6 percent) 74.5 percent
To check out the graduation rates for all school districts in the state: