PHOENIX — A popular GED program at the Armadillo Technical Institute may be dropped as the charter school and the Phoenix-Talent School District develop a new agreement to address concerns about low-graduation and high-dropout figures.
Both the institute and district officials agree that the way the state counts GED students hurts them on state "report cards" for Armadillo and Phoenix High School.
"With heavy hearts we are willing to do what we have to do. The way we look affects the district," said Armadillo's Interim Executive Director Kim De Costa. This year more than half of the institute's 11th- and 12th-graders are in the GED program.
At its March 19 meeting, the district's board voted to pursue a new charter, said School Board Chairman Craig Prewitt.
Because the state counts GED students as dropouts, that lowers graduation rates. Phoenix High School had a 71 percent graduation rate in 2012 compared with 8 percent for the charter school. That resulted in a district-wide graduation rate of 56 percent.
"They are actually considered like another high school in our district," said District Superintendent Ben Bergreen.
Armadillo would have had a 44 percent graduation rate in 2012 if it hadn't been running a GED program, De Costa said.
The 2012 state "report card" on schools said Armadillo needs improvement in achievement and graduation rate. Armadillo had 38 of the district's total 74 dropouts.
Some Armadillo students may leave several times during the year, and each time they are counted as a dropout, said De Costa.
Other concerns raised by board members will be addressed as the charter is created, said Bergreen. Those include Armadillo staff qualifications, governance, personnel matters, fiscal stability and curriculum.
Armadillo already has taken steps to address other concerns, Prewitt and De Costa said. "They are doing a much better job teaching teachers," Prewitt said.
Armadillo also has created a new board structure and has a new accountability structure that Prewitt said the district's board would probably view favorably.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.