Bremerton high school anticipating good graduation rates

Bremerton High School senior Felice Zeitler will be the first in her family to go to college. Zeitler gets extra coaching because she’s also dyslexic, and had to meet with counselors and persuaded the school to allow her into Advanced Placement classes. After graduation, she wants to get a doctorate in physical therapy at Eastern Washington University.“My dad is more like a cheerleader, when it comes to figuring out stuff the teachers are really helpful,” Zeitler said. Like Zeitler, Vanessa Ingram will be the first in her family to go to college. Ingram plans on majoring in journalism at Gonzaga University in Spokane in the fall on financial aid and scholarships.“I’m the first of four kids, I feel responsible to be an example for them,” Ingram said.Not graduating high school was not an option for her. “I’ve been taking AP all four years,” she said. “How could you not graduate if you’re taking those advanced classes?”Between 50 and 60 percent of Bremerton seniors graduated on time between 2004 and 2008, according to the Washington State Office of Public Instruction statistics. In 2010, on-time graduation rates jumped to more than 80 percent, depending on who’s numbers you look at. The graduation rate extends to 97 percent when fifth-year seniors are included, according to OSPI.Bremerton High School Principal John Polm said the decrease in drop-outs is because the school started “safety-net” intervention programs designed to find struggling students and help them finish their credits on time.Polm said a student missing credits can now take online classes to make them up or create an individual learning plan through the Drawbridge program.“That wasn’t in place back when rates were low,” Polm said.Ingram recently gave her senior presentation, which is more like a job interview where students explain what skills they’ve learned in high school. She found the interview skills handy when applying for a scholarship.Another senior, Robert Turner, intends to study engineering at Washington State University this fall. “We have it pretty good here,” Turner said of the high school. “We have like four programs to help make up credits if you’re behind.”The nearly 300 students making up the Bremerton High School class of 2012 are among the first students of the school district’s ramped-up efforts to reduce drop-outs.In 2009, the district hired a graduation specialist, whose job is to meet with seniors who need help.Polm expects to see at least 80 percent of seniors walking across the stage at commencement in June. Polm said the graduation rate for the class of 2011 isn’t available yet because OSPI waits until data is turned in for fifth-year seniors, but he estimates at least 80 percent of the class earned their diploma on time.The last few weeks of school can be crucial for students on the edge of failing a course, so Polm said counselors and teachers try to identify those students and give them a boost.“We’ve got the full-court press on here,” Polm said.The Central Kitsap School District has seen high graduation rates consistently for several years, also thanks to intervention programs, said Chris Wyatt, director of student services.Wyatt is in charge of data assessment and interventions for struggling students, and the school combines the two to catch and help students going under.Educators want to see students graduate high school in four years, but Wyatt said sometimes it’s not possible for everyone. “Some kids take longer to learn, and that’s okay, too,” she said.

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