The Indiana Department of
Education recently released graduation rates for all school districts;
while the overall grad rate fell slightly for Indiana
seniors, Indianapolis Public Schools is proud to report an increase in
our graduation rate for the 2015 cohort! Our 2015 graduation rate is
72.1%, a 0.7% increase over the previous year’s results.


To ensure every IPS student has the opportunity to stay on
track for graduation, the district has a 10-member Graduation and Alternative
Services team dedicated to providing personal and innovative supports for
students who are behind in required credits or End of Course Assessments


“Our goal is to ensure no child in each cohort is missed and
that every student has a solid plan for graduation,” said IPS Director of
Graduation and Alternative Services Lisa Brenner. “This graduation plan
includes life after high school as well; we want every student to leave our
halls enrolled in an institution of higher learning, enlisted in the military
or employed at a livable wage.”


Every high school in the district now has a dedicated
Graduation Coach who tracks each student in their school – auditing transcripts
and assessment results to identify any students at risk of not reaching
graduation eligibility on time. Students who are missing credits or ECAs are
flagged in a variety of categories (i.e., low danger, high danger) depending on
their individual level of risk of missing graduation. Coaches then meet with
students one-on-one to develop a workable plan for recovery.


“We sit down with students and say ‘okay, what can I do
today, what can I do this semester and what can I do next year’ to right-set
their path to graduation,” said Arsenal Technical High School Graduation Coach
Stephanie Weddle. The support plan is personalized for each student; some
require daily interactions with their Graduation Coach, while others may only
need one or two meetings to get on course.


Weddle says she has seen an overwhelmingly positive response
from students. Every day, groups of students show up at her door to learn more
about the opportunities available to them for a timely graduation.


“The Graduation Coaches believe the students can achieve,
and [students] pick up on that,” said Brenner. “That’s why there’s a line at
Stephanie’s door each day!”


The personal touch of connecting with students and families
is rewarding for Weddle, and she’s hopeful it will prove to have a positive
effect on Arsenal Tech’s graduation rate. Her role is more than analyzing data
and having meetings in her office; she spends many days around campus, on the
phone and around the neighborhood contacting students and families to ensure
graduation plans are set and met.


“As a coach, you win or lose with the team,” said Weddle.
“If you don’t graduate, I have to accept that loss. A basketball coach wouldn’t
let you walk off the court in the middle of a game, and I sure won’t let you
walk out on school before graduation.”


Collaborating with current seniors is crucial, but
Graduation Coaches also work with younger students to ensure everyone is
prepared for graduation and life after high school. Weddle has meetings with
the 2017, 2018 and 2019 cohorts to remind them of their responsibilities and
that she is always available for support. Former students are also on the radar
for these dedicated coaches.


“Stephanie is working really hard to reach out to students
that have already left IPS,” said Brenner, “to either reconnect them to IPS or
connect them with an educational program in which they can earn their high
school diploma.”


“Stephanie has done a great job connecting with our seniors
and creating a success plan for each of them,” said Arsenal Tech Principal
Julie Bakehorn. “She works to get them connected to tutors, into credit
recovery classes or even into programs off-site that might better fit their
needs. Stephanie has become an integral part of what we do here at Tech.”


From a student’s first day of high school to graduation and
beyond, this team is dedicated to ensuring the IPS alumni base grows stronger
each year.


“We’re building supports and cultivating an environment
where everyone believes students can and will succeed,” said Brenner. We thank
the Graduation and Alternative Services team for their dedication to supporting
student achievement, and are excited to see continued growth in the coming