The Ottumwa Courier


February 4, 2014

Stay on track

OTTUMWA — Raising the graduation rate at Ottumwa High School starts with the youngest class.

The Ninth Grade Incentive Party wasn't about who had the highest test scores or perfect attendance. In fact, kids could have a C- average in school and still be invited. It was to reward kids for sticking with the program.

"This year, 91 percent of our ninth-graders are on track to graduate," said OHS Associate Principal Steve Zimmerman. "Before the Freshman Academy started, it was in the 70s."

The Freshman Academy was one of the responses to a demand from the Ottumwa community: Raise our graduation rate. On track means students are working toward 12 credits this year. They'll be monitored again next year, and the years after that, too.

On Tuesday, freshmen worked on devouring more than three dozen pizzas during their party, played basketball or jumped into a bounce house. Out of 290 students in ninth grade, 130 were able to attend. Though Zimmerman wants that number raised, he knows there have been improvements.

In the first decade of the 21st century, OHS was listed by the Department of Education as having one of the lowest graduation rates in the state. In 2003, Ottumwa's graduation rate was the second lowest out of more than 300 school districts. Later, in 2008, the district had the worst dropout rate in Iowa.

Administrators, teachers and parents worked on developing a strategy to bring those numbers up. Zimmerman and fellow administrator Scott Maas were on the team. The goal was to develop a long-term plan.

When they started checking to see whether students would graduate, high school counselors found that students with too few credits were also those more likely to give up rather than catch up. The plan for the academy is that students are encouraged to keep up. In fact, Eidahl said, when the school investigated the theory, they checked toward the beginning of the 2011 school year and saw 80 percent of students were on pace to graduate. They compared that percentage to the graduation rate at the end of the school year. They were the same.

Text Only
  • 0710 OTT Bulldogs update color photo -L -M High school students lead Bulldog charge

    OTTUMWA — Two Ottumwa High School students gave their very first press conference Wednesday morning to share their progress on decorating Ottumwa with large bulldog statues. Alyssa Cash and Madyson Feather joined Main Street Ottumwa Executive Directo

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0710 OTT Smart snacks color photo -M -L Schools adopt new food regulations

    OTTUMWA — This fall, students across the country will find big changes in the cafeteria, but Ottumwa kids may find they approve of the changes. The new "Smart Snacks in School" standards from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) went in

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Survey finds math, science grads earn top dollar WASHINGTON (AP) — It seems to matter less whether your alma mater is public or private than what you study — math and science in particular — when it comes to finding a high-paying job after college, according to a report released Tuesday by the Educ

    July 8, 2014

  • Pekin and Tri-County to share superintendent PACKWOOD — Both Pekin and Tri-County Community School Districts have voted to approve Operational Sharing Incentives for superintendent during the 2014-15 school year. During the 2014 legislative session, the Legislature passed and the governor signe

    July 2, 2014

  • Teaching the teachers

    OTTUMWA — The community has formally advised the school district that strong teachers lead to strong students. Now Ottumwa teachers have "coaches" to help them boost educational muscle. Though the idea is now formalized under a Legislative state plan

    May 29, 2014

  • 0525 OTT OHS graduation web-color photo 3 OHS seniors say farewell OTTUMWA - Sunday marked the end of high school for all the graduating seniors from Ottumwa High School. Family and friends of the students packed the Bridge View Center, leaving standing room only for late-comers. You could feel the excitement in the

    May 25, 2014 4 Photos

  • Slideshow: OHS graduation

    May 25, 2014

  • 0524 OTT OCS graduation web-color photo 3 Small ceremony for big achievements OTTUMWA - Saturday was a special day for the four seniors graduating from Ottumwa Christian School. This small graduating class is double the size of last year's class and illustrates the small-group learning style of the school. Family and friends o

    May 24, 2014 3 Photos

  • Slideshow: Ottumwa Christian graduation

    May 24, 2014

  • IHCC partners with WPU OTTUMWA -- Indian Hills Community College and William Penn University have announced a partnership that should provide a seamless academic progression for nurses who choose to enroll in a RN-BSN program after receiving their registered nursing licens

    May 23, 2014

AP National