Licking County News

Southwest Licking has plan to boost grad rates

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Two Southwest Licking administrators presented a plan to the school board Jan. 16 to help improve the graduation rate, which was 87.7 percent, according to the 2013 state report card.

Kasey Rathburn, assistant superintendent, and Herb Wiard, Watkins Memorial High School guidance counselor, said the plan will be implemented for juniors and seniors next school year.

"If we keep doing what we've been doing in the past, for a certain group of students, it doesn't work," Wiard said.

When students get behind on credits, it becomes tougher for them to catch up and "the mountain becomes higher," Wiard said. Eventually, some students simply give up and drop out of school.

"We started thinking maybe we could do something a little more outside the box," Rathburn said.

Rathburn said she, Wiard, Superintendent Robert Jennell and high school Principal Ben Richards met with Everest Academy Superintendent Doug Gillum to review a successful program Everest offers to assist at-risk students in danger of not graduating.

Rathburn described Southwest Licking's version of the program as a "school within a school."

Basically, Rathburn said, 20 to 25 juniors and seniors identified as behind on academic credits will be asked, with their parents' permission, to take part in the program next year.

"It's an online curriculum, but there's a teacher from each core area who works with the students on a daily basis," she said.

Rathburn said the program allows at-risk students to work on their own and at their own pace, with support from teachers and Wiard's mentorship.

Wiard said students who appear to lack sufficient credits to graduate at the end of their sophomore years will be asked to participate in the program.

"They'll hit the reset button and start again," he said. "It's not for every kid, but for a certain population."

Wiard said it's also not an "easy way out," and participating students must be self-disciplined enough to "get on the computer," even though they will have constant assistance.

"It's a different way to go for some of the kids; I think it may be the best way for them to go," he said.

"I think this is a great idea," school board President Don Huber said.

Board member Dave Engel said he hopes at-risk students can eventually be identified prior to the end of their sophomore years and encouraged to enter the program earlier than their junior.

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