With a graduation rate of 97 percent, Oneonta High School tied for the second highest graduation rate in the state for 2013. School systems from Madison City, Mountain Brook, and Satsuma City were also at 97 percent, according to the Alabama State Department of Education. Vestavia Hills had the highest percentage of graduates with 99 percent.
The state graduation average was 80 percent, according to the department.
“The overall quality of the education throughout the student’s time at Oneonta attributed to this because it’s not just one person or one grade that makes this happen. It’s a combination of great people,” said Oneonta Supt. Scott Coefield. “We like to compare ourselves to the very best, and we have specialized programs to help our graduation rate.”
The class of 2013 had a total of 94 students and 91 of those graduated, according to Oneonta High School guidance counselor Rhonda Gibbs.
“There are three factors as to why a student doesn’t graduate – failed courses, not meeting the Alabama High School graduation exam requirements, and/or economic and social factors,” Gibbs said.
With this information, Gibbs gave three ways to keep students in school.
“First is credit recovery, which is the leading contributor to the success of the graduation rate,” she said. “The credit recovery program has policies and procedures that allow students who have failed core courses an opportunity to make up non-mastered standards without repeating the entire course. The key is to identify those students who failed a core subject and immediately place them in the program to recover the course standards.”
For the 2013 class, Gibbs said 16 percent recovered after failing courses during the ninth through 12th grades and three percent recovered during their 12th grade year.
“Secondly, we conduct an exit interview,” Gibbs said. “A student exit interview must be conducted in an attempt to resolve circumstances impeding a student from staying in school. It has played an important role in redirecting students.”
During the interview students are told about the negative effects of early withdrawal including possibly unemployment, poor health and living conditions, and suspension of the student’s driver’s license by the Alabama Department of Public Safety until age 19. Students are then provided with information on developing a plan to stay in school and school-to-work training programs.
“Thirdly, the class of 2013 was the last group required to pass the statewide assessment for graduation,” Gibbs said. “Those students lacking portions of the Alabama High School Graduation exam were placed in a rigorous remediation program and 98 percent met the requirement.”
Even with the recent success, Oneonta school personnel continue to strive for an improved graduation rate. Beginning this year, the Teacher Advisory Program ( TAP) was added. Each student in Oneonta Middle School and Oneonta High School is assigned to a specific teacher to connect one on one and build relationships while allowing the teacher to act as an advisor.
The largest group assigned to a teacher is 21 students.
“We do the very best we can,” Coefield said. “There are a lot of situations we can’t control, but we make it as hard as possible for them to drop out. I think we have the right people doing the right things to make graduation successful.”