By Mike LaBella
---- — Haverhill High’s graduation rate is the highest it has been in eight years, while its dropout rate is the lowest it has been in nearly a decade.
Superintendent James Scully recently said the school’s graduation rate is the highest it has been since the state began calculating graduation rates in 2006.
In 2013, Haverhill High graduated 75.3 percent of the students that entered as ninth graders during the 2009-2010 school year.
Scully said that is an increase of 4.2 percent from the 2012 graduation rate of 71.1 percent. It is up 6.5 percent from the first reported graduation rate of 68.8 percent in 2006.
The graduation rate reflects the percentage of an incoming freshmen class graduating in the traditional four years.
Equally important to this increase in the graduation rate is the decline in Haverhill High’s dropout rate, Scully said.
The number of students who dropped out of the school declined from 5.6 percent in 2012 to 4.7 percent in 2013. That is the lowest dropout rate the school has had in the past decade.
State education officials published a press release in late January noting public high school graduation rates and dropout rates were improving statewide.
Scully said he was pleased that Haverhill shares in the trend.
Haverhill High made gains in many categories. Through the hard work and dedication of school leaders and educators, more students are graduating on time and fewer students are dropping out, Scully said.
The school has seen tremendous gains in the four-year graduation rate of English Language Learners (ELL) — students from homes where English is not the primary language. These students had the highest gain in the school, with 65 percent of them graduating in 2013 compared to 41.5 percent in 2012.
Haverhill High has also seen positive momentum in Hispanic, low-income and African American groups. About 64.3 percent of Hispanic students graduated in 2013 compared to 45.5 percent in 2012.
Scully and other school officials commended the work of grant-funded programs that supported students who might have dropped out due to economic, academic, or family issues, and inspired them to graduate on time.
Interim Haverhill High Principal Beth Kitsos said the night school, computer based learning program and YES (Youth Engaging in Success) program contributed to the trend.
Each program targets a group of students who have unique challenges, yet aspire to graduate, Kitsos said. She said those programs give students who would not have the chance of graduating the opportunity to get their degree through personalized learning environments and increased connections with teachers and guidance counselors.
“One push is to help students who are nearing graduation but are still short of required credits get those credits,” Kitsos said. “We made a concerted effort to reach out to those students.
“Decreasing the dropout rate and increasing the graduation rate are two of my priorities,” Kitsos said.
Kitsos said the development of the school’s Freshmen Academy has contributed to the graduation and dropout gains at Haverhill High. Freshmen and sophomore years are the most challenging for some students.
The Freshmen Academy was developed to keep groups of students together with a team of teachers who focus on the individual needs of each student through the development of personalized learning activities, increased parent involvement, and collaboration by teacher teams and support staff.
HAVERHILL HIGH BY THE NUMBERS
2013 graduation rate: 75.3 percent
2012 graduation rate: 71.1 percent
2013 English language learners’ graduation rate: 65 percent
2012 English language learners’ graduation rate: 41.5 percent
Dropout rate (grades 9-12, by percent)
Source: State Department of Education