MANCHESTER – Graduation rates have increased at Manchester Township High School, an increase the district credits with vigilance on the part of its staff to ensure student success.
Director of curriculum Diane Pedroza said graduation rates at the school have climbed to 93.9 percent, with a drop-out rate of .5 percent. Compared with state statistics she provided, that rate beats the state average of 1.2 drop-out rate.
While the state graduation target sets an 81 percent graduation rate, Manchester has faced years of having a low 85 percent graduation rate. With the changes implemented, the district now has one of the highest graduation rates in Ocean County.
“If you go back about 10 years ago, there was a cut to a lot of programs, adult high school being one of them,” high school counselor Shannon Findlow said. “There were not alternative programs and schools were forced to bring in a lot of students who were out of district, forced to come back to school. Because of those cuts, there weren’t as many other opportunities for kids to get their diplomas.”
Those challenges, she said, caused the district to look at alternatives themselves.
“It was a shared vision that we had as administrators, as counselors, and teachers, to make sure that we’re assisting students in every way possible to be college and career ready, and it’s definitely a multi-faceted approach, targeting our attendance, making sure our students are in school,” high school principal Dennis Adams said. “We’ve done better tracking of our transfers in and out of state. Our guidance counselors and teachers have really worked hard together to make sure that students’ needs were being met, making sure kids were placed properly.”
One program, Student Opportunity for Achievement and Readiness, was implemented during the 2015-16 school year to take at-risk students out of traditional classroom settings to help them get back on track, ready to graduate. Students also have options to take classes online.
“That combination helped put us in a good place,” Adams said.
A problem that often led to dropping out is chronic absenteeism, which Adams and counselor Shannon Findlow said is combated by meeting with students and talking to parents when patterns in absences are detected. Too many absences can lead to credit denial. Students who were absent had to make up “seat time” by staying after school and working with teachers.
Because of the line of communication opened about absences, Adams said the school has seen a decrease in absences.
Looking forward, the high school wants to expand its S.O.A.R. program to accommodate more students.
“We have to continue targeting the attendance. We have to continue to have a shared vision as a building, and making sure our S.O.A.R. program is supported by the staff and administration, and positive reinforcement to help this be the standard,” Adams said.