Rowan-Salisbury Schools superintendent says system focused on dropout prevention
SALISBURY — While data from a recent state report on dropout and short-term suspension levels painted a grim picture for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, district officials say they are working to turn the ship around.
“While we recognize that we still have challenges with the number of dropouts and suspensions, we are proud of the fact that we are doing a better job of reporting with the procedures that we have in place,” school officials said in an emailed news-release.
According to the state’s 2015-16 Consolidated Data Report, Rowan-Salisbury Schools had one of the state’s largest percentage increases in dropouts over a three-year period.
But that’s a trend the school system is actively working to combat, according to the release. According to the report, the No. 1 reason students gave for dropping out is attendance. The school system has implemented processes and supports to keep students in school, the release said, and is revisiting its district attendance policy.
“Even one student dropping out of high school is too many and of great concern to all of us,” Superintendent Lynn Moody said. “We continue to analyze data and identify problems that cause students to drop out so we can put strategies in place to address those problems.”
The school system provides ongoing resources for at-risk students, including intervention specialists to provide counseling and home visits; night school; alternative suspension programs; and an increased focus on making personal connections with students and families.
The system also provides remediation programs; volunteer mentors and tutors; school-based partnerships with community mental health agencies; partnerships with Communities in Schools, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Livingstone College and Crosby Scholars; and credit recovery among others.
Moody has previously encouraged setting a 100 percent attendance goal for students that would cause their academic performance to improve.
“We have placed a heavy focus in the area of individual school attendance, which is the No. 1 factor when students drop out of high school,” Moody said. “Focusing on student attendance, particularly in the elementary and middle school years, helps to build positive school habits that will follow students into their high school years. We need the cooperation from our parents assuring that their children are at school every day, rested and ready to learn. I encourage parents to stay in communication with their child’s teacher to discuss any concerns. Every minute of instructional time is valuable.”
Statistics show that students who are not reading at grade level by third grade are more likely to drop out. Therefore, system staff are staying the course with a strategic plan on reading and literacy.
According to the news release, schools across the district are creating data rooms that track the individual progress of each student. This growing concept includes data meetings led by district administration at each individual school.
“With regard to our student discipline, our long-term suspension rates have already declined this year due to new initiatives in our schools,” the release said.
The school system implemented a discipline review committee, which resulted in establishing a restorative-based classroom for elementary schools and several pilot programs for secondary schools. Reverse suspensions and shadowing have been introduced over the past year as well. Preliminary data shows a decrease in short-term suspensions at several schools from the same time last year because of interventions, according to the release.
“We at Rowan Salisbury Schools face challenges head-on,” Moody said. “Our principals, teachers, counselors and staff are working hard to engage our students in a relevant, positive and rigorous learning environment. We welcome the support of our community to help keep all of our students in school and on time, every day.”
Detailed information on the state report may be found at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction website, www.ncpublicschools.org.
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