Photos: Provo graduation 08

Kevin Henriquez exclaims, "just five more minutes!" to those around him as he waits in line to receive his diploma during Provo High School's Commencement Ceremony on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at the UCCU Center in Orem. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

A graduation ceremony held this fall for Provo City School District had all the makings of the May celebration, including caps and gowns, photos and speakers.

But as simple as it may seem, it helped pushed 30 students who hadn’t completed coursework before the summer to earn their diplomas.

“We initially thought we’d have a handful of kids and parents,” said Todd McKee, executive director of secondary education in the Provo City School District. “We didn’t think it would be a big draw, and we were overwhelmed. It was so well received by students and their families we are looking for a larger venue next year.”

The ceremony was one of multiple initiatives the Provo school district implemented last school year to drive up graduation rates.

According to data released Monday from the Utah State Board of Education, it appears to be working.

The Provo City School District’s graduation rate jumped from 71 percent in 2015 and 2016 to 77 percent in 2017, according to the data.

Provo High School’s graduation rate has risen from 82 percent in 2015 and 87 percent in 2016 to 89 percent in 2017. Timpview High School’s graduation rate went from 89 percent in 2015, to 86 percent in 2016 and then rose to 92 percent for this year.

Independence High School, the district’s alternative high school, had a graduation rate of 32 percent for 2015 and 2016. In 2017, it jumped to 50 percent in 2017.

McKee said the district is pleased with the district-wide increases.

During the last school year, the district started different interventions and worked to change the culture at Independence High School. Students who were falling behind were identified earlier to receive interventions and an after school program provided extra support for students.

This year, the district is working to refine its current early intervention methods in an effort to achieve a goal of reaching a 91 percent graduation rate.

“The ideal situation is you are catching kids as they fall off in the ninth grade and you are providing support along the way,” McKee said.

Alpine School District’s graduation rate rose 1 percent from 91 percent in 2016 to 92 percent in 2017, the same rate it was at in 2015. Mountain View High School in Orem and Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs rose 4 percent each from 2017, ending up at 95 percent and 94 percent respectively.

Nebo School District’s graduation rate rose from 90 percent in 2016 to 91 percent in 2017. Landmark High School, the district’s alternative school, rose 5 percent to reach 65 percent in 2017, while Springville High School saw a 3 percent increase to 94 percent in 2017.

The statewide graduation rate was 86 percent for 2017. It was 81 percent in 2013.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.