Pine City High School graduation rates were way above the Minnesota average in 2018.

The graduation rates for Minnesota students rose to 83.2% in 2018, the state’s highest graduation rate on record, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

But Pine City Public Schools surpassed that number, with a graduation rate of 91.41% for the class of 2018.

This is, in fact, part of a dramatic rise in Pine City graduation rates in recent years, according to Pine City Schools Superintendent Annette Freiheit.

“It’s all about the simple things that we’re doing – building the relationships with the kids, having an adult that cares about them that they know is going to be after them to keep them on track,” Freiheit said.

The district-wide graduation rate increased from 76.50%in 2013  to 91.41% in 2018. Pine City High School improved their graduation rate from 76.70% in 2013 to 97.25% in 2018. The Pine City Alternative Learning Center improved from 35.30% to 73.33% over the same time frame.

Freiheit said the positive trend can be attributed to a few factors for both the high school and Area Learning Center. She also said the student teacher relationships have been a focus for many years, and that the “World’s Best Workforce” initiative  – has brought attention to student needs in this area.

“Back in 2013 we didn’t have that college readiness piece to it,” she said. “That has come about because of the ‘World’s Best Workforce.’ One of the five pillars is are all students ready for graduation and college and career readiness planning is one of the other pillars. Eric Wicktor is the ninth grade social studies teacher. He has an entire quarter built on college and career readiness. Then we’re looking at 10th, 11th and 12th grades, and they have to have a plan in place to graduate. I think that has been a huge piece.

“We’ve also strengthened up our career in college readiness planning so kids are thinking about graduation, and what are their plans afterwards – whether it’s work, military, technical school, college – whatever it might be,” she said. “And we’re continuing to beef that up so we’re looking at other options ... particularly junior and senior year.”

She also noted that the ALC has moved from nine-week to  six-week terms, and said the shorter terms allow less time for students to fall behind. The ALC staff will be adding  advisory periods to meet with students to discuss current and future planning in the 2019-2020 school year.  Students tend to fall behind less often in this model.  Hence, graduation rates have improved.

Freiheit said that Pine City schools have been considering adopting an academy system, but that it may not be the right fit.

“We’ve been reviewing that and looking at it,” she said. “I think what we’re finding is, it’s probably a little too restrictive. When we look at the market for what our kids could do for jobs here in Pine County, 80% of the jobs require a high school degree.”

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