OGDEN -- More students are graduating in the Ogden School District in 2013 than in any of the past 30 years. If things stay on track, Ogden High School will have about 100 more students graduate this year than last year, and Ben Lomond, which has a 90 percent graduate rate for seniors, will stay about the same.
Approximately 398 seniors will graduate from Ogden High this year, and 266 from Ben Lomond.
"The teachers are working really hard to hold on to our students," said Ogden High School Principal Stacey Briggs.
Superintendent Brad Smith said the district caught some criticism last year because of the way it reported the high graduation rates -- only using results from the beginning to the end of the senior year. This year the district went back to the 2013 graduating class's sophomore year to see who had started with the various schools and then figured out how to hang on to them.
"We have done many of the same things, but we also had to refine, adjust and improve," Smith said.
The district wanted to know the total number of students it was accountable for, and going back to the numbers from the students' sophomore year was the best way to do so.
Both of the high schools made an effort to identify who had dropped out and who had moved. The schools also made an effort to target those dropped-out students and clean up the numbers.
The district also tightened its standards regarding which students were being sent to George Washington, the alternative high school.
"We needed to diffuse a confusing mission that was dissatisfactory in every single way," Smith said of the process of sending students to the alternative school.
This year students who would normally have been transferred to Washington High for various issues stayed at their own high schools and worked with the counselors, teachers and administrators there.
"Before, if a kid couldn't graduate from Ogden High, we would dump them at George Washington. Now we are taking responsibility for all of our kids," Smith said.
Briggs said the numbers are exciting this year and that it built on the momentum from last year's high graduation rates.
"We are doing a lot better job of keeping kids where they belong," Briggs said.
Ogden has 32 of what Briggs calls "lost children," or students who had been unaccounted for before this year, who are on track to graduate. The school has a celebration list, and every day the numbers are being counted to meet the goals, and every day the numbers change as more students are getting their work done and caught up.
Both schools still send lists to Smith each week, indicating which students aren't on track to graduate, so that he is included in the conversation regarding what is being done to change the outcomes for those students. The schools did the same thing last year, and the results were positive.
School board President Shane Story said he thinks the grade configuration change a few years ago, which switched from having ninth-graders start high school to having 10th-graders start high school, has made a big impact.
"We lost a lot of those ninth-graders," Story said.
Now the district can track those ninth-graders in junior high to make sure they are earning the credit there and bringing it with them to the high school.