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Cleveland Hill school officials work to raise advance diploma numbers

More than 93 percent of students graduating from Cleveland Hill High School in four years receive a regents diploma, while less than 1 percent receive a local diploma – with the latter being the lowest rate in the region.

“It is a last-minute, last-ditch thing when we are giving our kids local diplomas,” said Daryl Janus, director of curriculum and assessment for the district. “We’re pulling out every single stop before that point. It’s not our first option, it’s our last.”

Janus said they try to push students to – but not beyond – their limits.

“I think we want to stretch their boundaries and help them understand what they’re capable of,” Janus said. “We provide the necessary resources.”

Students with disabilities earning local diplomas are down to 7 percent in the most recent graduate year – 2015 – from 46 percent in 2011. For regents diplomas with students with disabilities, Cleveland Hill is up to 71 percent in its most recent graduates from a low of 15 percent in the class of 2011.

Cleveland Hill has a K-12 summer school, for kids who need help all the way to those who want enrichment.

“About 25 percent of the kids who come to summer school from the elementary school come for enrichment,” Janus said. “We target that group. We do not even offer transportation.”

It’s three hours a day for summer school, Janus said, and it’s called “Summer Success.”

“We are basically giving them the keys to the ignition on life,” Janus said.

In terms of goals, they’d like to give more advanced designation diplomas to all students, Janus said. That includes a regents diploma with additional qualifications, like getting students to complete more high-level math and science courses. Janus noted that he, along with others at the district, would like to see that incrementally increase over the next two-four years.

“To do that, we expanded our accelerated science in middle school,” Janus said.

“That was two years ago. How long will it be before those kids work their way through the system?”

They’ve also added college credit courses, which are Erie Community College-aligned, in anatomy, physiology, advanced biology, plus several social studies classes and several English classes.

Some have been around many years; some have been added only in the last two years.

“Because we’re a smaller organization, it’s easier for us to keep a finger on the pulse of all of our students. We’re a K-12 building,” Janus said. “You see a kid grow up here – he becomes a Cleve-Hill kid. … Our goal here is to try to get better every day.”

Jon MacSwan, superintendent of the Cleveland Hill district, said they’ve seen some substantial improvements in their student achievements in recent years.

He said teacher leadership has been instrumental, as has board leadership.

“We have teachers leading the way,” MacSwan said.

“It’s a great collaborative effort. We’re just starting to get things the way we want them and we’re looking forward to our continued growth in the future.”