Increased requests for early graduation from the Elmbrook School District concern school officials, who want to ensure students are prepared for their next steps in life.
The Elmbrook School Board Curriculum Committee discussed the trend during a Tuesday meeting and will compile more data in the next few months. During the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, Brookfield East had a total of eight early graduation requests while Brookfield Central had four. But with the beginning of block scheduling in 2011-12, those numbers have soared:
Brookfield East juniors
Brookfield East seniors
Brookfield Central juniors
Brookfield Central seniors
*Data provided by the Elmbrook School District
Further, the schools have hundreds of students who are on target for early graduation in the next two years, according to a school district document.
Those who request early graduation are leaving the Elmbrook School District early for a variety of reasons, according to a school official.
“We have students who are going directly into the workforce and students who are going into the workforce for a limited amount of time and then starting second semester in college or university,” said Curt Mould, director of secondary instruction for Elmbrook Schools. “Then we have students who are going directly to a university or college.”
Elmbrook high schools will be surveying all outgoing graduates — including those graduating after three years or during their fourth — to determine just why the students are motivated by early graduation. Without looking at the reasons behind students leaving, it’s difficult to gauge the exact reasons for the increased requests.
“We know that kids can obtain credits faster in the block schedule than in the old schedule,” Mould said.
In addition to their impact on the district’s enrollment counts — students who leave a year early aren't on the September enrollment figures that influence state aid — students who graduate early won’t finish their individualized college and career readiness plans, Mould said.
“We want to make sure that they are prepared to move on,” Mould said. “It just begs the question of whether or not they are prepared. How do we determine whether or not they are prepared?”
Nationwide, the number of high school students graduating at age 17 started increasing in 2000, according to the National Institutes of Health, though that doesn't necessarily indicate early graduations. Some states are embracing early high school graduation — Idaho is in the middle of passing a bill that would provide scholarships to those graduating high school early.
The issue will be studied and may come before the Elmbrook School Board this fall. Data points that will be considered, according to the district document, prior to recommendation are:
- The future of a third credit requirement in science
- The graduation requirements of regional and benchmark districts
- The graduation requirements of regional, benchmark and other districts utilizing the four period, 90-minute block schedule
- Exit survey results of Elmbrook students who have chosen to graduate early
- Academic standing and course loads of early graduates
- Fiscal impact of early graduates/increased graduation requirements on revenue and full-time enrollment (FTE) numbers
- Review of options for course work outside of the building/classroom: mentorships, Youth Apprenticeship, Youth Options
- Review of dual-credit programs and potential future offerings.