ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)– The Altoona Area School District is seeking alternate ways to improve graduation rates.

The district compares its graduation rates to the state’s average and districts with similar demographics. The state’s graduation rate is around 88%. According to Brad Hatch, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education, the district measures at rates between 84% to 90%.

Hatch said that a decline in attendance is one of the reasons for the lower graduation rates. He noted that improving attendance starts with getting students engaged both in the classroom and those involved in the hybrid model.

The increase in engagement is mainly towards the kids in grades 6 to 12. Hatch said that involves taking proactive measures with better opportunities. For example, staff identifies if a student is not on grade level early to adjust their learning in the future.

“So, finding ways to make sure we have programming and opportunities that meet every student’s needs and interests is the priority,” Hatch said. “But then also, looking at proactive measures to identifying and address students who are at risk at an earlier age.”

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Another measure they hope will help with the issue is having more mental health resources within the school. Hatch said that mental health had become more of a priority since the pandemic.

The district plans to hire more guidance counselors and social workers. They believe having more mental health resources could help student achievement and involvement.