Upton in the top 10 for grad rates

Alexis Barker, News Editor

Graduation rates for the 2022-23 school year were recently released by the Wyoming Department of Education, and while Weston County School District No. 7 was able to reach the top 10 in the state, Weston County School District No. 1’s graduation rate did not fare as well in comparison. 


Determining graduation rates


According to Newcastle High School Principal Bryce Hoffman, graduation rates are calculated based on the number of students expected to graduate in a certain cohort. When students enter high school or transfer into a school, they are attached to this class, or cohort. 


“If a student leaves our school district and transfers to another accredited school in state or out of state, they leave the cohort. If a student leaves our school district and does not enroll in another accredited school, they stay a member of the cohort and count as a dropout,” Hoffman explained.


He noted that students with Individualized Education Plans through the special education department, which has them on track to earn their certificate, do not count as members of the graduating cohort. Hoffman added that students who leave and complete the HiSET, a high school equivalency credential, do not count toward a graduation cohort. 


“Graduation cohorts are measured through six years. Meaning if the student comes back and earns their diploma, the five-year and six-year rates for the graduation cohort may change in a positive way,” Hoffman said. 


Upton High School, Weston County School District No. 7


The Upton school district was able to achieve a 93% graduation rate, the sixth-highest among school districts in the state, according to Upton High School Principal Joseph Samuelson. 


“Though our goal is always 100%, we are focused more on the process of doing everything possible to ensure our students have every opportunity to succeed,” he said. “This process speaks more to the culture of resilience and fortitude within the school community, as well as WCSD No. 7.” 


Samuelson noted that former Principal Linda Crawford had pushed a vision where “student’s would own their learning” and that staff has done a great job of pushing that message into their classrooms. 


The school’s approach to learning, he said, is more student-centered, primarily through the use of personalized learning. 


“Under this approach, we work with students and parents on an individual level to make their education more relevant and meaningful. Through this, we are able to create individual pathways, curriculum and coursework for each student based on their interests and future aspirations,” Samuelson said. “Student and family engagement in the process and planning is critical to reaching the end goal.” 


In addition, he said, a very diligent group helps to finish reaching the goal of graduation for as many students as possible every year. 


“I can’t say enough about the resilience, flexibility and empathetic nature of our teachers who are dedicated to all our students,” Samuelson said. “They are persistent with all their students and masters at being able to reach them.” 



Newcastle High School, Weston County School District No. 1


As for Newcastle High School, Hoffman said the school was unable to reach the goal of keeping the school’s graduation rate above 90%, coming in at 77.4% for the 2022-23 school year. The school had exceeded the 90% goal the two previous years.


“We are still working with a few members of this class who are working towards their diploma and should add some to the five-year cohort; however, it won’t reach 90%,” Hoffman said. “I also anticipate that we will not meet expectations in the graduation metric for the class of 2024 cohort, as we have several students leave our school and not re-enroll elsewhere.” 


To help students reach graduation, students who are struggling in classes are assigned to a teacher for the school’s enrichment/recovery time. This time allows for students to receive extra support in areas where they struggle for four days a week. 


“Some have reteaching that needs to be done, and others just need extra time in the classroom for clarification on their assignments or to make up assessments,” Hoffman said. “We also offer homework help center three days per week after school and “Needs-Extra-Time” lunch for students to utilize when they fall behind.” 


If a student fails a class with a 50% or above, he said, teachers look at the standards and assignments where the student did not meet expectations and the student is then re-assigned the assignments to recover credit. When they fail below 50%, the student is required to take the course the next semester, online or during summer school. 


“When a student falls off graduation track, we also have meetings with the parents/guardians to see what else we can do to support the student,” Hoffman said. “Some students respond well to this and follow through with commitments they make in these discussions, and at other times they do not.” 


He said that parents in many scenarios are helpful and involved in their students’ academics. 


“In some cases, this does make a positive difference for the student, and they turn it around. Other times, parents are very engaged, but the students have their mind made up that their path in life doesn’t require a high school diploma to be successful, so the student doesn’t follow through,” Hoffman said. 


He said that parents can help by speaking positively to their students about the importance of earning a diploma, and help them understand that sometimes they are going to have to complete school work they may not feel is relevant to their future. 


“Also, students have a higher graduation rate when they participate in more activities or athletics. So, they can encourage their students to stay involved. That is a true benefit to the student,” Hoffman said. 


In addition, when students are passing classes or attending school regularly, Hoffman said, it can help to have a system in place to hold them accountable at home. 


“Parenting is the toughest job around, and I can’t place myself into the shoes of every parent of this community. It is my hope that each parent does the best they can with the resources and background they have to communicate a positive outlook regarding learning to their child,” he said. 


As for things the community might do to help, Hoffman said the community does amazing things for the students and that they help whenever they are asked to donate time or resources. 


“The community is really stepping up and participating in the Career and Trade Fair that the school is hosting for students,” Hoffman said. “... It is our hope that this will begin to form connections between our students and local entities, as well as form a connection between students and their education to career pathway.” 


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