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Will County high school graduation rates climbing

Brock A. Stein | 6/4/2015, 9:51 a.m.
School districts are targeting students early in an effort to keep them in class and on track to getting a ...

An increasing number of area high school seniors are taking home diplomas this year as graduation rates climb in Will County.

Several area school districts have posted rates well above the state average of 86 percent and the national rate of 81 percent, and others have made steady gains. Even Joliet Township High School District 204, which still sees more than 25 percent of its seniors leave school before completing their degree, has seen its graduation rate climb from 71 percent in 2012 to 75 percent in 2014.

New state numbers will be released for the 2015 graduating class in October.

State of Illinois

Graduation Rate 2014 - 86%

Graduation Rate 2013 - 83.2%

Plainfield District 202

Graduation Rate 2014 - 91.5%

Graduation Rate 2013 - 92.9%

Lockport District 205

Graduation Rate 2014 - 90.25%

Graduation Rate 2013 - 79.3%

Joliet District 204

Graduation Rate 2014 - 75.2%

Graduation Rate 2013 - 72.7%

Valley View District 365U

Graduation Rate 2014 - 84.9%

Graduation Rate 2013 - 83.9%

Source: illinoisreportcard.com

Growing graduation numbers reflect an increasing focus by the state and school districts to equip students with the skills they need to make the transition to their lives after high school, officials said.

The state adopted new Illinois Learning Standards in 2010 with the goal of developing higher expectations for students and encouraging them to master skills they need to move to the next level, Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Amanda Simhauser said.

The new standards were implemented to make “sure our students are ready to graduate equipped with all the skills they need to be successful,” Simhauser said.

Ensuring that success beyond high school is a big focus for educators in Plainfield School District 202, where the district has worked to bring a better understanding to students about the value of getting their diploma regardless of whether they plan to go off to college, the military or the work force, district spokesman Tom Hernandez said.

Based on their graduation numbers, the message seems to be resonating. The district's graduation rate is 91.5 percent in 2014, down from 2013’s high of just under 93 percent.

“Life beyond school is affected by what you do in school,” Hernandez said. “Finishing school is a big part of that.”

Students in Joliet District 204 also get counseling that encourages them to think about their future career path as a way of reinforcing the idea that graduating from high school is just the start of their continuing education, whether in college or job training.

Students in their sophomore year enter a career track course of study that guides them toward their planned job path after high school, officials said.

“The career is the goal and for certain careers, it can’t just be a high school diploma,” said Karla Guseman, assistant superintendent for educational services.

Early support keeps students on track

In District 204, graduation rates have grown steadily since 2010. In the two-high school district of 6,000 students, graduation rates have grown 4 percentage points since 2012, going from 71.4 percent to 75.2 percent in 2014.