Paige Kasperbauer, a member of the junior class at Carroll High School, reviews classroom work with Max Fischbach. Daily Times Herald photo by Jeff Storjohann
Paige Kasperbauer, a member of the junior class at Carroll High School, reviews classroom work with Max Fischbach. Daily Times Herald photo by Jeff Storjohann
Friday, January 27, 2012

No one person single-handedly keeps the most at-risk students from falling between the cracks, according to Max Fischbach, Carroll High School’s at-risk coordinator.

It’s a team effort at CHS, he says.

“Every couple weeks, the high school principal and assistant principal, the school counselors and juvenile liaison, and director of Carroll Learning Center meet, and we take referrals from our teachers, and we figure out who’s most in need of help,” Fischbach said. “Those students then come into my room during their study halls every day for extra help.”

Fischbach said he usually contacts a student’s parents to let them know their child will receive extra help with their schoolwork.

Students who continue to struggle may be referred to the Carroll Learning Center–Carroll Community School District’s alternative learning environment.

In his effort for students remain at CHS, Fischbach keeps track of the students he works with by using the district’s student information system.

In addition to homework help and preparation for class tests, Fischbach can also monitor the students he works with using the district’s student information system to check grades and see if they have any late class assignments.

“I know when these kids get behind on their work, and I know which teachers will let them turn in late homework,” Fischbach said. “We also study for tests and make sure they’re doing their homework right.”

Currently, Fischbach works with about 65 CHS students to get them on track to graduate.

“When we meet we talk about the importance of a high school diploma and how it is linked to a better chance to earn a higher income,” he said. “Everyone — their parents and their teachers and administrators at school — want to see these kids walk across the stage and receive their high school diplomas.”

According to the Iowa Department of Education, CCSD’s high school dropout rate for the Class of 2009 cohort was 1.55 percent. That’s lower than the 3.15 percent state average.

CCSD’s Class of 2009 cohort had a 90.7 percent graduation rate, compared with the 87.3 percent state graduation rate.

The district’s Class of 2010 cohort graduation rate was 90.98 percent, compared with the state’s 88.8 percent graduation rate. The Class of 2010 cohort at CCSD had a high school dropout rate of 2 percent, compared with the 3.41 percent state average.

Beginning with the Class of 2009, the IDE switched to a cohort graduation rate formula adopted by the National Governors Association, which requires states to assign an identification number to each public school student so the same group of students can be tracked during their four years of high school.

The four-year cohort graduation rate is calculated by dividing the number of students in the cohort who earned a regular high school diploma in four years or less by the number of first-time ninth-graders enrolled in the fall four years earlier. Then, subtract the number of students who transferred out and add the total number of students who transferred in.

The state previously tracked graduation rates using a leaver rate, calculated by dividing the number of high school regular diploma recipients in a given year by the estimated number of ninth-graders four years previous.

Because of the change in graduation rate calculations, it is inaccurate to compare a state’s rates from 2009 and later with the graduation rates of previous years.

Fischbach said that because of collaboration between him and the high school staff, they are able to help struggling students earn a high school diploma.

“We want them to have the supplies they need to be successful in school, so I have calculators and the laptops they can check out and take home to do their work,” he said. “We’re trying to help them out and help them be successful, and the teachers do a great job of working with me.

“If the kids are gone for a couple of days, I send an email to the teachers and ask what work they missed, and the teachers send it right down to me. I do that more for them when the students are freshmen and sophomores because by the time they’re juniors and seniors they should know to be responsible.”

Once students are back on track to graduate, Fischbach said, he helps students work toward their next goals.

“We help them fill out college applications and help them find jobs if that’s what they want to do after graduation,” he said. “Des Moines Area Community College has helped with that by providing students with non-traditional classes that allow kids to work with their hands. It provides them extra motivation to do well in their core classes at the high school, so they can continue with their DMACC courses.”

Once they see better things to come if they do well and finish high school, Fischbach said, at-risk students can excel.

“Many kids I work with go to four-year colleges, heavy machinery school, taxidermy school, or two-year colleges,” he said. “We get a lot of smart kids in here, but they just need a little extra motivation. A lot of them just think that they don’t have to do any homework and they can just pass the tests and graduate. That’s not the case, though. High school takes work.”