Archive for Thursday, January 17, 2002

A snapshot of success

State report cards show improvement in attendance, discipline rates

January 17, 2002

One item of good news from the State Board of Education's 2000-2001 report card for Eudora High School is dropout rates continued to decrease, falling from 8.9 percent in 1998 to 1.2 percent last school year.

The bad news is the district might consider cutting the New Frontiers Program, an alternative school within the high school that Superintendent Marty Kobza is responsible for the declining dropout rates. The program is one of the cuts the district is pondering in response to the state budget crisis.

"It's been very, very significant," Kobza said of the program's impact.

Still, Eudora schools can be proud of how they stack up against the state average in other areas, too, like attendance and violence.

Although the attendance rate has increased only slightly in the last four years from 94.9 percent to 95.8 percent Eudora is 2 percent above the state average.

At one point, before former high school principal Charlie Watts implemented a policy excusing students from final exams through a combination of high marks and attendance, Kobza said the school had a 90 percent attendance rate. Now, he said, it was evident the policy was working.

Graduation rates have remained somewhat steady with the median at 81.4 percent, although the graduation rate in 1998 was 68.3 percent. Kobza said that figure could help account for the 8.9 percent dropout rate that same year.

Graduation rates, however, are not the inverse of dropout rates. District Officer of Academic Affairs Mindy Salmans said students who don't graduate from Eudora High School may not have dropped out but rather chose alternate routes, like joining the military, or they may have taken five years to complete high school. Also, if a student transfers and graduates from a different high school but Eudora never hears from the student's new school, he or she is statistically considered a dropout.

Rates of violence at both the high school and Eudora Middle School have shown improvement since 1997, the first year included the 2000-2001 report cards. At the high school, violent acts against students dropped from 6.1 percent to 1.2 percent, below the state average. Violent acts against teachers are virtually non-existent, dropping from .7 percent to none.

Although violent acts against teachers are virtually non-existent at the middle school, there have been none since 1997 (.6 percent), violent acts against students have decreased from 8.3 percent to 1.8 percent. Kobza attributes declines in the middle and high schools to an implemented discipline system that compounds punishments for each additional infraction.

Even though violence rates decreased at Eudora and across the state in the last four years, highly-publicized school shootings, like those at Columbine High School in Colorado, seem to indicate otherwise.

"If anything, it made us more aware that school violence can happen anywhere, which is why we need our schools safe," Kobza said.

Increased safety measures include the hiring of school resource officer, Tad Teehee, this year.

"That officer will do more for the community than the individual climate of the building," Kobza said. "He's going to build a relationship with students that will carry on outside the school."

Although violence and attendance are less prolific in the elementary grades, the diversity at Nottingham and West elementary schools and the middle school are noticeably higher than in the high school, although Eudora schools consistently have fewer racial/ethnic minorities than the state as a whole.

Non-whites comprise only 2 percent of the high school, but at the other schools between 6 and 8 percent of students enrolled describe themselves as American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black or Hispanic. Kobza said the diversity in the younger grades could be because parents move into the community when their children are younger, and United States Census statistics show minorities are gradually increasing in Eudora.

"That's been a positive thing for Eudora," Kobza said. "It's good when our students can be exposed to different cultures. For so many years in Eudora there was not a very significant minority population within the schools."

The report cards also include results of state assessment tests the district uses to make changes to curriculum and break down to help individual students. Kobza said the assessment test scores show Eudora schools did a good job of bringing students who start at the bottom performance level up to a higher standard.

Overall, Kobza said the district uses the report cards to look at trends of attendance, dropout rates and other factors and to act accordingly.

"At one time we reviewed and looked at the policies in place," Kobza said. "We continue to do that."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.