Ninety-four percent of the current Sheridan High School senior class is on track to graduate next spring.
That's according to high school Principal Dirlene Wheeler, who notes that in 2008, just under 76 percent of seniors graduated.
That was below the acceptable graduation level established by federal No Child Left Behind guidelines, and slightly less than the Wyoming statewide high school graduation rate of 79 percent. Wheeler credits high school administrators, teachers, staff and parents with helping achieve the turnaround which, last year, saw an 86 percent graduation rate here.
Wheeler said no one program implemented at the high school has been responsible for the improved graduation rate. Instead, she said, there have been a multitude of interventions. But one big one, she said, has been the Friday Early Out, a program started in 2008/09 as one of the high school's first intervention programs.
Wheeler explains the program.
Other interventions include weekly meetings of teachers, administration and other school staff, including the school's counselors, in focus meetings to discuss how individual students at risk of not graduating can be helped. Wheeler said counselors work with students and their parents to develop plans to keep the students on track for success.
She said, “Parents are the most powerful factor in keeping kids in school. It's as hard work to raise teenagers as to raise toddlers. But, though the kids may argue, they're listening.” If the parent tells the child to stay in school, she said, “The kids will listen, and they will stay in school.”
Other programs implemented at the high school include an Individual Learning Plan for each student, and efforts to build a positive environment that deals with issues such as bullying, and empowers students by helping them develop strengths.
Efforts are part of Graduation Counts, an initiative started in 2007/08 through the Wyoming Department of Education. The initiative specifically addresses one of Sheridan County School District's five main goals – that students will meet high academic expectations.
Wheeler also hopes in the current school year to develop a publicity campaign that educates the public – individuals, the community, state and country – on the effects of dropping out of high school.
Wheeler said the district is committed to achieving a sustainable 90 percent graduation rate, with a goal of moving toward a 100 percent graduation rate.