By TRENTON JOHNSON
Capital News Service
LANSING—Graduation rates are improving in Michigan due to initiatives established to help students succeed, experts say.
Among the initiatives are programs that assist students online or through extra attention during school hours.
“Our focus is to be less concerned about money and help move students to higher levels of education,” said Michael Flanagan, state superintendent of public instruction.
Flanagan said graduation rates are going in the right direction.
Statewide, the graduation rate was above 75 percent from 2007 to 2009, he said. In the previous period it was 70 percent.
Flanagan said there is also a focus on demonstrating proficiency, which can be determined through testing and teacher evaluations.
At Alpena High School, the graduation rate is 80.95 percent, said Justin Gluesing, assistant principal. In 2008, it was the same, he said.
At Petoskey Public Schools, the graduation rate is 85 percent, said Karen Starkey, director of guidance and counseling. In 2008, it was the same.
Starkey said, “Things that are done to help students succeed include online credit recovery, summer school, math and English tutors, before and after school meetings with teachers and teachers’ reports on how the students are doing.”
Online credit recovery is an option for students who take classes online to make up needed credits.
Joe Tibaldi, the principal at West Senior High in Traverse City, said the graduation rates for the Traverse City Public Schools has been 89.17 percent between 2007 and 2009. The graduation rate for West Senior High has been 95.93 percent for the past two years. In 2007, it was 95.89 percent.
In the Traverse City district, there are three high schools.
In other areas in the northern Lower Peninsula, graduation rates haven’t changed much.
Alpena’s Gluesing said, “The graduation rate has been relatively flat. We haven’t seen a spike or significant decline.”
Alpena High also offers credit recovery through online classes, provides tutoring and gives students evaluations from their teachers.
There are obstacles to getting students to graduate, educators acknowledge.
In Petoskey, for example, Starkey said some students lack family support or live in a poor economic situation. Then there are those who don’t value education and don’t view it as being important, she said.
Starkey said another obstacle for some is transportation.
At Alpena High, some students don’t want to do the classwork or homework and don’t understand that they must meet certain requirements to graduate, Gluesing said.
But there are ways that students can improve their prospects for graduating.
Flanagan said students can finish high school in three years, especially if they take online courses. He also said they can do college work in conjunction with high school, which is called dual enrollment.
Flanagan said the Department of Education wants to promote dual enrollment opportunities as well.
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.