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Good news for local schools

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

The dropout rate in the Rowan-Salisbury School System dipped last year, falling below the state average and reaching the system’s lowest point in six years.

According to the Annual Dropout Event Report, released Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, 300 high school students dropped out of Rowan-Salisbury schools in 2005-2006, translating to a 4.37 percent dropout rate.

That’s a 20.4 percent decrease from the 2004-2005 dropout rate of 5.49 percent, according to the report.

“I hope it’s a trend,” said Bryce Beard, chairman of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education. “While this is a good thing, I don’t think that it really says that much unless it’s a trend.”

The current school board is looking at adopting programs that today’s high school students will find more relevant to their lives, Beard said. He said the system needs to get away from traditional high school curriculums that may mirror things that were happening 20 years ago.

As for the dropout rate, “We’re doing better than the state average which is something that you have to say is a good thing but I wouldn’t stand up and say we win,” Beard said. “It’s a work in progress.”

Beard said he wasn’t sure why the dropout rate had decreased, but the system has been focusing on the problem at the individual school level.

While Rowan-Salisbury’s dropout rate improved last school year, state dropout rates increased slightly.

According to the report, North Carolina’s dropout rate is now 5.04 percent, an increase of 6.33 percent from the 4.74 percent rate in 2004-2005.

The Kannapolis City School System reported its highest dropout numbers in six years.

According to the report, Kannapolis City had a 6.59 dropout rate last school year, compared to a 5.87 percent rate in the 2004-2005 year.

Cabarrus County’s dropout rate was down slightly last school year at 5.03, putting the system in line with the state average.

“Many parts of the state experienced decreases in dropout events with 46 of the 115 local districts reporting decreases. Five of the largest school districts account for a disproportionate amount of the increase. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Wake, Guilford, Cumberland and Winston-Salem/Forsyth schools accounted for 56 percent of the increase in the grade 9-12 dropout events,” according to a press release from the Department of Public Instruction.

Hispanic students made up 5.67 percent of all dropouts last school year. That’s a decrease from the 2004-2005 school year when Hispanic students accounted for 6.68 percent of dropouts.

The number of black students dropping out of Rowan-Salisbury high schools is on the rise.

In 2004-2005 the state reported that black students made up 20 percent of dropouts. That number climbed to 28 percent in the 2005-2006 school year.

White students made up the largest percentage of last year’s Rowan-Salisbury dropouts — 64.33 percent.

Of total Rowan-Salisbury dropouts, 59.33 percent were male and 40.67 percent were female.

Statewide, the 2005-2006 school year saw an increase in the number of male students dropping out, with more than twice as many leaving school as opposed to female students.

, the press release said.

The press release also outlined how dropout students are identified.

A dropout is a student who:

* Was enrolled in school at some time during the previous school year, which is the reporting year

* Was not enrolled on Day 20 of the current school year

* Has not graduated from high school or completed a state or district approved educational program

* Has not transferred to another public school district, private school, home school or state/district approved educational program or is temporarily absent due to suspension, school-approved illness or death

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com.

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