Schools' dropout rate up; state numbers down
By Sarah Campbell
The dropout rate increased in the Rowan-Salisbury School System last academic year, while the statewide rate declined. But school system officials note the local rate was the still the second-lowest in the past decade.
During the 2009-10 academic year, Rowan-Salisbury had 276 students drop out for a rate of 4.24 percent. The previous year, 254 students dropped out for a rate of 3.84 percent.
Both years were sizable decreases from the 2007-08 school year, when 380 students left school for a dropout rate of 5.54 percent.
“We will not be satisfied until all our students stay in school and graduate from high school,” Dr. Jim Emerson, chairman of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, said in a press release. “The dropout rate is unacceptable. We will continue to re-evaluate our efforts in reaching out to every one of our students to help them understand the importance of a high school diploma.”
Statewide, the 2009-10 dropout rate was 3.75 percent, down from 4.27 percent the previous year, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction reported Thursday. The rate of 3.75 percent is the lowest dropout rate ever recored in the North Carolina.
The dropout rate declined in 70 percent of school districts across the state, the agency reported.
“Educators across the state have focused on keeping students in class and on track to graduation, and their hard work is paying off,” State Superintendent June Atkinson said in a press release. “It is imperative that we keep this positive momentum going so all students can graduate and find success in college and careers.”
The rate declined in Kannapolis City Schools from 6.51 percent in 2008-09, when 94 students left school, to 5.29 percent last academic year, when 78 students dropped out.
“We are pleased that it went down and we certainly have in place some mechanisms to do that with some mentoring and and student profiling,” Superintendent Dr. Pam Cain said. “But we want to do even better.”
Kannapolis still had one of the 10 highest dropout rates in the state.
“We are very aware of that statistic and we are not accepting it,” Cain said. “We are working hard on it because we know that a child who does not have a high school diploma is likely to live in poverty, have chronic poor health, depend on social services and be eight times more likely to end up in jail or prison.”
Who’s dropping out?
The Department of Education reports that historically males drop out more frequently than females.
Statewide, males accounted for 59.4 percents of students who left school last year, nearly the same as the 59 percent from the previous year.
Males made up 60.5 and 53.8 percent of dropouts in Rowan and Kannapolis schools, respectively.
Each race and ethnic group showed a decrease in the number of dropouts statewide, the agency reports.
Although white students had the largest decrease at 14.9 percent, they still make up 45.9 percent of the state’s dropouts.
They have the highest percentage of dropouts of any race, followed by black and Hispanic students at 37 and 11.3 percent.
White, black and Hispanic students also made up the highest percentage of dropouts locally.
In Rowan County, more than half of the students who left school last year were white, a total of 61.6 percent. About 46 percent of Kannapolis’ dropouts were white.
Black students made up more than 30 percent of students in both Rowan and Kannapolis who left school last year.
About 20 percent of dropouts in Kannapolis were Hispanic. The percentage of Hispanic students who left school in Rowan was lower at 11.3 percent.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction reports students in ninth grade dropped out most frequently, as in past year, at a rate of 32.1 percent followed by sophomores at 26.9 percent, juniors at 23.2 percent and seniors at 14.7 percent.
Why students leave
Grissom said poor student attendance continues to be the No. 1 reason students drop out of high school.
Statewide, about 41 percent of students left school last year because of poor attendance.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of parents working with us to be sure that their children are at school, ready to learn every day,” she said in a press release. “The number of suspensions continues to be on the decline as principals place a great emphasis on individual student needs.
“That is our focus and will continue to be our focus — keeping students in school every day.”
State data indicates that about 22 percent of students who dropped out left to enroll in community college.
Academic problems, lack of engagement, choice of work over school, discipline problems, and unstable home conditions were also among the reasons students reported dropping out.
What’s being done?
Grissom said her staff will continue to work hard and focus efforts to address the problems that cause students to drop out.
“We will not be satisfied until we keep all of our students in school,” she said.
Grant funds through Communities in Schools have been used to implement dropout prevention programs at West Rowan and North Rowan high schools.
The district’s LINKS (Learning, Intervention, Nurturing, Knowledge, and Student Achievement) program is also making strides through counselors and intervention specialists who work to meet individual students’ needs.
Elementary and middle schools provide remediation to keep students from falling behind.
Livingstone’s “Upward Bound” program, which targets at-risk high school students, provides college preparatory curriculum.
“We will continue to focus on individual student needs and provide support mechanisms that will reinforce student interest and engagement in learning,” Grissom said. “ti takes a combined effort from community members, parents, students and educators to make education a priority in Rowan County.”
Cain said Kannapolis is also working on initiatives to keep students in school.
The district launched an alternative program last semester and she recently presented the school board with a proposal to offer differentiated diplomas.
“We’re looking at a number of ways that we can get students to graduate,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Dropouts by School
Dropouts by Race and Gender
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