Lawrence school board to consider adding high school courses, hear report on graduation rates

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

The Lawrence school board will consider at its meeting Monday adding high school courses for the 2019-2020 school year while expanding its college credit partnership with the University of Kansas. It will also hear a report on the district’s downward-trending graduation rates.

The 15 new courses proposed will be in the academic pathways of law, public service and safety; graphic design and engineering; informational technology; and graphic design and engineering. Pathways are groupings of sequential courses that start with introductory courses available to freshmen and sophomores and more difficult courses available to upperclassmen, according to a report from a team of Jerri Kemble, assistant superintendent of leading, learning and technology; Jennifer Bessolo, district curriculum director; Patrick Kelly, director of the Lawrence College and Career Center; Rick Henry, director of high school support; Free State High School Principal Myron Graber and Lawrence High School Principal Matthew Brungardt.

Among the new classes to be offered will be:

• A public service internship class through the College and Career Center that will assign seniors semesterlong internships with the Lawrence Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County District Attorney’s Office and Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

• A one-semester emergency medical technician class that will allow seniors to earn certifications to practice as an EMT.

• A one-semester webpage design class available to juniors and seniors.

• A one-semester computer game design course available to sophomores, juniors and seniors.

• A one-semester computer programming fundamentals course for juniors and seniors.

In addition, the team recommends the district expand the number of courses it offers in partnership with the University of Kansas. The district currently offers English and algebra classes that provide juniors and seniors credit toward a high school degree and college credit. The team recommends the partnership be expanded to include courses in critical reading English, college-credit classes in speech, biology, elementary statistics, American history, political science, psychology, anthropology and Spanish.

In other business, Terry McEwen, district director of research, assessment and accountability, will present the board a report on high school graduation rate trends of the five academic years from 2014 to 2018. The report shows a more than 4 percentage point decline in the district’s overall graduation rate in the five-year span, from 92 percent in 2014 to 87.3 percent in 2018.

The graduation rate decrease is consistent in racial subgroups, except the rate among Asian students, which was 100 percent. Over the five-year span, the graduation rate of white students fell from 91.9 percent to 82.8 percent; 90.8 percent to 71.4 percent among Hispanic students; 86.7 percent to 76.6 percent among black students; from 90 percent to 84.6 percent among Native American students; and from 97.8 percent to 85.3 percent among multiracial students.

The 2018 graduation rates at the district high school’s were 90.9 percent at Free State, 83.9 percent at Lawrence High and 58.5 percent at Lawrence Virtual School.

McEwen writes that the district’s graduation rate is the percentage of a freshman class that graduated in four years, plus transfers into the district high schools and minus those who transferred out of the district.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. Monday at the district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, but the board will meet in executive session for an hour before starting its regular meeting at 7 p.m.


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