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York County School of Technology had the largest increase in graduation rate in York County between 2010 and 2015.

According to graduation rates provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the district's graduation rate increased dramatically in five years. At the end of the 2010-11 school year, 76.65 percent of students from the school were graduating. By the end of 2014-15, the most recent statistics available, that number had jumped to 90.06 percent of students.

Gerry Mentz, director of student services at the school, and Ronda Abbott, the curriculum leader for the math department, agreed the increase comes from a push to have students well-matched to the program they are enrolled in.

York County School of Technology offers 25 different technical programs to students  from 14 different school districts in the county. Technical programs include architectural design, carpentry, computer programming, homeland security and more.

"Kids come interested in the programs that they’re in, and because of that they stay more focused on what they’re doing," Mentz explained.

In addition to the interest and connection to technical programs, Mentz said the school has done a lot of restructuring in the past six years to try to improve student success across the board. There's been a greater focus on having teachers connect directly with students, but the school also has  increased some of the academic standards and requirements.

While that seems as if it might actually lower graduation rates, Mentz said increasing standards and communicating them well has inspired kids to work harder and believe in themselves more. The school has worked to add honors and advanced placement (AP) courses as well. The focus has been to build up students' strengths and encourage them to tackle more challenging subject matter.

Mentz pointed to the math department as one that has embraced these changes and made significant changes of its own to help foster student success. Abbott, who is  a full-time teacher, attributed the school's success to ensuring that teachers are really passionate about the subject they're teaching and that the curriculum can be learned by a wide variety of students.

Because there are students from 14 different districts, starting everyone off at the same level as freshmen can be a challenge, particularly in math. Abbott said the department has overhauled the curriculum to include social-emotional development as well. This means that in math classes, students will talk about their brains and setting goals.

Abbott said that when learning a difficult concept, students often become frustrated and give up without fully understanding why. By talking more about what the brain does when learning, students discover that their frustration and difficulty in understanding a subject is actually causing their brain to grow. This information helps the student persevere through challenging concepts.

"The motto is, 'Mistakes are expected, respected and inspected,'" Abbott explained. "When you develop that in your classroom, kids feel safe to struggle and keep persevering."

She said the teachers have  been pushing to make sure their class work is rigorous so that students won't want to miss class because they'll think they might miss meaningful activities or information. Teachers often incorporate real-life connections into their lessons and encourage collaborations  between teachers and students, all of which contributes to the school's success, in Abbott's opinion.

Abbott also said the administration, teachers and students are all vitally important to the change in success that the school has seen.

"We have the hardest-working staff; they're an incredible group of people," she said. "Our kids are awesome. We are the best-kept secret in York."

York County Graduation Rates by School District 

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education

 2010-20112014-2015
Pennsylvania82.6386.7
Central York93.5593.6
Dallastown Area93.8395.75
Dover Area90.0885.66
Eastern York91.5495.58
Hanover Public77.1285.71
Northeastern York78.6387.7
Northern York County92.9691.71
Red Lion Area87.2189.83
South Eastern90.9589.55
South Western92.3895.81
Southern York County94.3798.28
Spring Grove Area91.5795.42
West Shore-Cedar Cliff89.2185.81
West Shore-Red Land89.2190.91
West York Area88.9993.33
York City73.5473.39
York Suburban8994.52
York County School of Technology76.6590.06
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