When the final school bell sounds on Friday all but four Manteca Unified seniors will have earned high school diplomas.
That will give Manteca Unified a graduation rate approaching 99.4 percent.
Just five years ago Manteca Unified had a graduation rate of 92 percent to lead all of San Joaquin County in 2013. In 2017 — Ripon Unified led the county at 98.5 percent followed by Manteca at 95.8 percent.
Manteca Unified is closing in on a 100 percent graduation rate — California as a whole was at 83.2 percent in 2017 — thanks in a focused effort to identify struggling students before they reach high school. Once identified intervention programs are set up and parents are involved. Even before they enroll in high school, seventh and eighth graders who are identified as at risk of not graduating already have a working relation with a high school counselor.
“We believe in every kid,” said Manteca Unified Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke.
A list of at-risk students is kept current with their progress being monitored all the way from the classroom to the superintendent’s office.
When the school year started, there were 32 students that were falling short of graduation requirement.
The list is down to four today. Of those four, two moved out of the area and still count against the overall Manteca Unified graduation rate. Of the other two one is listed as “inactive” in terms of working on their high school diploma and the other is enrolled in an on-line high school diploma program.
Once struggling students are identified at the seventh or eighth grade levels, a high school counselor meets with them to provide added support. The counselors and administrators determine if students need an Intervention Math or Intervention English class.
During the summer students who have struggled in math are able to enroll in a Summer Math Bridge program that runs for two weeks before school starts. The program has two math teachers — a ninth grade teacher and an eighth grade teacher along with two high school assistants. The goal of the Summer Math Bridge is to strength students’ math skills and to get them ready for algebra and helps them to better connect with high school.
Not only do counselors in high school track and meet regularly with the identified students but so does the vice principal.
Each school site tracks grades and attendance of the students. Counselors intervene if a student starts to struggle. Each high school also has a Peer Resource class as well as Peer Resource students that also tutor and help support the students.
“We’re enjoying success (with increasing up graduation rate) because our teachers care,” added Deputy Superintendent Roger Goatcher.
The program to keep struggling students on track is essentially a year-round endeavor and underscores the district’s commitment not to just prepping students for college, post-secondary vocational education or the workforce but for life in general given the adversity facing someone without a high school diploma.
Goatcher said it takes a lot of additional work by teachers to help the struggling students succeed.
“If a child fails, we all fail,” Goatcher added.
Among the cohort of students in California who started high school in 2012-13, 83.2 percent graduated with their class in 2016, up 0.9 percent from the year before. This increase means that 4,917 more students received their high school diploma in 2016 than the year before.
The state’s graduation rate has increased 8.5 percentage points since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate.
“This is great news for our students and families,” State Superintendent Tom Torlakson was quoted as saying in a California Department of Education news release last year. “Graduation rates have gone up seven years in a row, reflecting renewed optimism and increased investments in our schools that have helped reduce class sizes; bring back classes in music, theater, art, dance, and science; and expand career technical education programs that engage our students with hands-on, minds-on learning.
“The increasing rates show that the positive changes in California schools are taking us in the right direction. These changes, which I call the California Way, include teaching more rigorous and relevant academic standards, which provides more local control over spending and more resources to those with the greatest needs.”
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