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Elkhart schools see continued growth in graduation rates

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ELKHART, Ind. –

After a decade of climbing graduation numbers in Elkhart schools, teachers, students and administrators in the Elkhart Community School District have their noses to the grindstone during the last week of school in hopes of another record-breaking year.

Both Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial High Schools will hold graduation ceremonies on June 9. This week is packed with finals.

“This last week of class with finals and kids and making sure they’re there to take tests, those are the kind of things that kind of keep you up at night.” Said Frank Kurth, the vice principal at Elkhart Memorial High School.

Kurth is also in charge of what’s called the cohort at Memorial, which is the group of seniors in the class of 2019.

“Four years ago we graduated 356 seniors, then we went to 375, then we went to 384 and then this past year we graduated 404,” said Kurth.

The school district has seen a more than 30 percent increase in their graduation rate over a span of 10 years.

Going from just under 63 percent in 2008 to an all time high of 95 percent in 2018.

“What really has been our success is being able to blend all of these difference opportunities, people resources, and the emphasis on being 90 percent on graduation to be competitive.”

Kurth says it was about four years ago when some major changes were made to help the students succeed. That’s when principals from both schools came together and talked about how they could help more students succeed.

“We have both traditional high school and then we have alternative education programs,” said

Kurth. Those alternative options include Elkhart academy and what the district calls the school without walls.

Plus Kurth credits adding positions like an attendance social worker and senior intervention specialists as a catalyst in their success. Memorial also has what’s called the senior tracking room.

 “Any at risk student that needed some credits or needed some work or needed some coaching, we had their picture on the wall, we had what classes they needed and then we had a comment sheet where we could date and write how we were connecting with that,” said Kurth.

And the best part the rate increase according to Kurth, is that it truly is reflecting the students graduating.

“To take the number of graduates and grow it to over 400, that was the largest graduating class in Memorial High School history. You’re not kicking kids out to get the graduation number up, you’re graduating them to get your graduation number up and that’s what’s important,” he said.

Kurth says he doesn’t know if they’ll beat that 95 percent rate from last year but he does say they look on track to beat their goal of 90 percent.

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