DEER ISLE — Deer Isle-Stonington High School, which has improved its graduation rates the past three years, was the site that Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen chose to kick off his 2013 tour of schools Monday.
Deer Isle-Stonington has had a “pretty astonishing growth in graduate rates,” Bowen said at a press conference held with Principal Todd West.
West credits the increased rate to a combination of culture change, professional learning communities for faculty and student assistance teams.
The school’s graduation rate for the Class of 2012 was 93.75 percent, which exceeded the goal of 90 percent.
Bowen announced Maine’s graduation rate for the 2011-12 school year, which was 85 percent.
“The graduation rate is up for the fourth year in a row,” Bowen said.
Bowen said it is difficult to determine what’s driving the increase.
“We know there’s a lot of work being done across the state,” the commissioner said.
Maine still has gaps in graduation rates, such as male/female, Bowen said. Female graduation rates are 87 percent compared with 83 percent for males. That mirrors a trend nationwide.
West said the school is developing a marine pathways study program, which would help close that gap.
While Deer Isle-Stonington has a goal of a 100 percent graduation rate, the school also needs to ensure students are obtaining a “meaningful diploma,” West said.
“Stonington is the leading lobster port in Maine,” West said. “There’s great incentive for boys to pursue the fishing industry.”
To that end, the school is examining how it can change what it’s doing and “validate anytime, anywhere learning,” West said.
West said under the marine pathways program, instead of doing math from a textbook written in Texas, students who have already started fishing might collect data to track salinity, turbidity and catch rates to practice math. Presenting the data they’ve collected could help them with language arts.