By STEVE HARTMAN
Maryville Daily Forum, Staff writer
As national high school graduation rates hit the 80 percent milestone for the first time with a projection of a national graduation rate of 90 percent by 2020, the state of Missouri rightfully boasts that its graduation ratio is already 86 percent.
But that’s nothing compared to Nodaway County, where seven public high schools handed diplomas to 207 out of a possible 213 students in 2013 — an impressive 97.2 percent.
Maryville High School, the largest school enrollment-wise, graduated 108 out of 112 seniors in 2013, which translates to a 96.4 percent graduation rate. Nodaway-Holt, Jefferson, Northeast Nodaway and North Nodaway all achieved a 100 percent graduation rate in 2013, while West Nodaway had a 90.5 rate.
Maryville High School counselor Becky Houtchens said several factors contribute to R-II’s consistent success.
“I believe the rural area makes a big difference,” Houtchens said. “All of the county schools do a good job of keeping kids from falling through the cracks because we have the opportunity to know each student and their family and develop the relationship necessary to communicate back and forth about the student’s progress.”
According to Houtchens, Maryville’s “Check and Connect” program lets teachers and students build relationships, which helps increase attendance and provides another way to monitor students and anticipate problems
“We constantly monitor student’s grades and attendance,” Houtchens said. “As teachers and students build one-on-one relationships, it gives us another way to pick up on any changes in a student’s life which might affect attendance and academic performance, and prevent those from becoming problems.”
Houtchens also credits high expectations.
“Students understand that graduation is the expected outcome, and parents and families do a great job of reinforcing that throughout the student’s public school career.”
Nodaway-Holt superintendent Karma Coleman echoed Houtchens’ thoughts.
“Education is important to the communities in northwest Missouri,” Coleman said. “When parents and schools get more involved with students, it makes it easier to track their progress. In small schools, we have the opportunity to know the kids and families much better.”
Coleman sees an additional benefit small schools offer that makes a difference in the academic progress and ultimate success of young people.
“I believe students who struggle can be more successful in smaller communities,” Coleman said. “If a student is mobile and transfers from one county school to another, we all work together to make sure the new school has the records and background information necessary to meet the student’s needs immediately, so they don’t fall behind due to the transfer. All of the schools in Nodaway County do a good job of working together for the good of the students.”