Despite having their senior year thrown into turmoil because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Class of 2020 maintained local students’ track record of high graduation rates.
In the 2019-20 school year, 93.6% of Teton County School District No. 1 seniors graduated in four years, which the U.S. Department of Education considers on time. That’s a hair below the prior year’s rate of 94%, but well above the state’s overall rate of 82.3%.
Teton County was one of 18 districts in Wyoming that had a graduation rate above 90%. Jackson Hole High School Principal Scott Crisp said that even with the pandemic, his staff worked hard to keep students on their educational schedules.
“I’m very proud of the diligence that our staff has in regards to working with kids coming down the wire to really support them finishing on time,” Crisp said Monday.
In part, the pandemic didn’t derail lots of students because it happened so close to the end of their educational journey. With only a couple of months to manage, teachers and students were able to “triage,” Crisp said, focusing on the most important things.
That doesn’t mean students were able to coast to the finish line, because the district has stricter graduation requirements than the state as a whole. With the number of credits required to graduate, most students are full time throughout even their senior year.
Pandemic or not, those classes had to be completed.
“Our teachers did make adjustments to their curriculum, but not adjustments that lowered the threshold of learning,” Crisp said.
One of the “silver linings” educators and their pupils have referenced this year is the pandemic’s flash course in learning management. Overnight, some districts had to build online learning infrastructure and teach kids how to learn at home.
Teton County’s seniors were well set up, Crisp said, because the district started using Canvas, an online learning management platform, eight years ago. That helped the Class of 2020 adapt when school went virtual in March.
Another move that Crisp credits with helping last year’s seniors was a switch to offering blended learning classes, in which some work is online and some is in the classroom. Although the courses were optional, they helped many kids develop the skills to be independent.
“If we didn’t have those two prior components in place, it would have been harder for us, for sure,” Crisp said.
With the Class of 2021 learning under the hybrid model, which incorporates two in-person days a week, Crisp said those two decisions are still paying dividends. They will, he thinks, help the new crop of seniors continue the trend of high graduation rates.