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Hastings High School far exceeds Minnesota's average graduation rate

The Minnesota Department of Education sent out its applause to the state’s school districts for the upward trend in high school graduation rates (those graduating with the class of 2015), the highest rate recorded by the department. The state graduation rate reached 81.9 percent

Hastings School District 200 far exceeded that rate.

For the Hastings High School class of 2015, the graduation rate was 97.1 percent, up from the 94.8 percent reported for the class of 2014. Hastings graduated 330 students last year.

“Graduation rate is the measure of a school system’s success – this is what we all work for and it reflects well on all of the Hastings schools, parents and community,” said Hastings High School Principal Mike Johnson. “All of the Hastings schools continue to have high expectations for students; staff push themselves and are doggedly determined with students; we create an incredibly positive and personalized school environment and we believe that involving students in their school will lead to higher achievement.”

Johnson stressed that there are a number of factors as to why the graduation rate continues to improve here.

“It is not a coincidence that our graduation rate has increased since we have developed more honors, college credit and advanced placement classes,” he said. “Students are ready for the challenge and build upon their successes.

“Likewise, we have reduced the lower-level classes and have far less students in essentials or remedial classes,” he said. “Teachers have taken advantage of the tools technology provides for student learning alternatives, quicker access to information and more time for interacting in students, and how they learn best. I also believe that our strong tradition of HHS graduates attending college and technical schools after high school – 90 percent each year – has created the culture and expectation that students explore careers and make plans beyond high school.”

Every student matters at Hastings, Johnson said.

“We work incredibly hard to engage each student and establish a relationship with them,” he said. “Initiatives like Link Crew connect older students with new students, so they can ‘teach’ the new students how well we do things at HHS – many classes, activities and sports take that personalized approach. You will not find many high schools that have as much school spirit and pride as Hastings, which reflects the strong tradition of how much they supports the school. With so many clubs, activities and sports we believe every student can find their place in high school.”

The school and its staff are determined to help students who are failing a class before they officially “fail.” The concerns for a student’s mental health are priorities as well, administrators say.

“Once identified we work together with the student, parents, teachers and support staff to make a plan,” said Johnson. “If students do indeed fail a class, the opportunity to make up that class is immediate and here right after school at HHS. We do not want students who have failed a class to get too far behind that they lose hope. We utilize student Peer Helpers who have been trained as good listeners and contacts for students who are struggling with the stresses of school and life as teenager.”

Johnson praised the school while admitting it is not perfect.

“We know that along the way students struggle with personal issues, pressures of teen life and stress of planning for learning after school,” he said.

Fun events are scheduled during the years, a sense of humor is encouraged, and mutual respect is very important, he said. Hastings’ conference of schools and nearby school districts also have high graduation rates, Johnson noted.

For instance in the conference, there is Mahtomedi, 98.5 percent; followed by Hastings with 97.1 percent, South St. Paul, 94.2 percent; Henry Sibley, 89.7 percent; Simley, 87.2 percent; Tartan, 86.3 percent; and North St. Paul, 82.1 percent.

The graduation rates of neighboring schools are Randolph, 100 percent, followed by Hastings, 97.1 percent; Woodbury, 95.3 percent; Park, 94.6 percent; Rosemount and Eagan, both 94.3 percent; Stillwater, 93 percent; Red Wing, 90.5 percent; and Cannon Falls, 97.1 percent.

The goal is to reach 100 percent graduation rate. It is realistic, Johnson said.

“We do need to remember that some students in special education continue to attend schools beyond their graduation year as part of their individual plan with parents,” he said. “Even though we are all in agreement this is best for the student, the state counts it against our graduation rate. We want to be clear that we will never hold statistics like a graduation rate over the needs of a student – if a student needs additional learning beyond high school and it will lower the graduation rate, we support that student every time.”