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Big day nears
AISD grad rate 82%By Brenda Bernet
Public school educators aim for all students to graduate from high school, but not everyone will.
In Amarillo Independent School District, graduation rates for all students tend to exceed the rates of graduation for all Texas students.
For the class of 2006, 82 percent of students graduated from Amarillo ISD compared with 80 percent of all Texas students.
Any one student who does not finish high school matters, Superintendent Rod Schroder said.
Amarillo ISD tracks fairly closely with the state for the graduation of students of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds, but the rate of graduation for low-income students was about 5 percent lower than the state rate of 78 percent, according to reports on the class of 2006 from the Texas Education Agency. Numbers for the class of 2007 are not yet available.
In AISD, 59 percent of students were economically disadvantaged in 2005-06, compared to 56 percent statewide.
In Texas, 89 percent of white students graduated, compared with 75 percent of black students and 72 percent of Hispanic students. In AISD, 88 percent of white students graduated, compared with 77 percent of black students and 72 percent of Hispanic students.
Obviously, gaps still exist in the graduation rates of minorities and low-income students.
Caprock and Palo Duro high schools serve the largest percentage of minority and low-income students in the district.
Efforts to help more students graduate at Caprock include expanding programs that allow students to recover credit for classes they failed, greater involvement of parents and improving attendance, said Pat Williams, executive director of the Caprock Cluster. A number of tutoring programs also are available.
"Nobody's proud of our graduation rates," Williams said. "If they don't graduate from high school for whatever reason, it really gives them tough barriers as they proceed through life."
For Caprock and Palo Duro, the greatest challenge is for students to gain credit for every class taken, officials said. New state graduation requirements kicked in with freshmen students this year, making gaining credit for each class the first time even more important for graduating on time, Palo Duro principal Kevin Phillips said.
"We still are struggling with kids who get behind as ninth- and 10th-graders," Phillips said. "It's going to become increasingly ... more difficult and challenging for kids."
Officials are discussing efforts to help more students finish high school, Schroder said. Ideas include expanding alternative education programs so more 11th- and 12th-graders can participate.
School district officials also intend to expand the availability of General Education Development programs, which would not improve graduation rates but would reduce the number of dropouts, Schroder said.
At Amarillo High, any student who does not graduate on time causes concern, said David Manchee, associate principal.
"It still causes us to lose sleep," Manchee said. "We still want to focus on helping each ... student get where they need to get."
And education does require a partnership, Schroder said.
"The school has a responsibility to engage students in every classroom," Schroder said. "The student has to engage him or herself in the pursuit of a diploma."
Teachers and principals can't improve graduation rates alone, Schroder said. Students need to hear about the importance of education from their parents and employers.
"We need the community to reinforce the message to students that they need to graduate," Schroder said. "You're going to graduate from high school at a minimum," he said.
Graduation rates are listed for the state, regions, districts and schools by the Texas Education Agency in Academic Excellence Indicator System Reports. The percent graduated represented the students who started high school in 2002-03 and received high school diplomas by the end of the 2005-06 school year.
Celebrate Education is a yearlong community project to encourage lifelong learning and help raise the education level in the Texas Panhandle.
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