County boosts efforts to combat dropout rate

January 14, 1998


Staff Writer

The Washington County Board of Education, which last year posted its highest dropout rate in a decade, will employ new tactics in an effort to keep students in the classroom.

The school board this week was awarded a $250,000 grant to be used to hire and train four teachers who will work with elementary students who are at risk for dropping out.

The teachers will be trained in "learning style theory," which is the ability to detect different learning traits in children.

The teachers then will craft lessons based on students' characteristics.

The approach is based on the premise that not all students benefit from traditional teaching methods, said Frank Finan, director of curriculum and staff development for Washington County schools.


Some students need more hands-on teaching, some require more verbal instruction and others respond to visual instruction, said Finan.

"We believe all students can learn. We just need to find the technique," Finan said.

After instructors are trained, they will teach the method to other classroom teachers, Finan said.

The Goals 200O grant from the state Department of Education will be used to start the program at five elementary schools that feed into South Hagerstown High School, officials said.

South High's 7.2 percent dropout rate last year was the highest in the county.

South High Principal Richard Martin said he likes the project.

Martin said the way to reduce the dropout rate is to begin working with potential dropouts early, giving them one-to-one assistance in elementary school when academic problems are first identified.

Salem Avenue Elementary School Principal Vincent Spong, whose students eventually go on to South High and North High, said it is important to help students with academic problems as early as possible so they don't become frustrated with school.

Other services that could be expanded to lower the dropout rate will be discussed at a conference later this month, Martin said.

Consideration will be given to expanding day-care services for children of teenage mothers so the mothers can concentrate on staying in school, Martin said.

The Department of Social Services and the Department of Juvenile Services are expected to discuss ways of expanding services for students during the meeting, Martin said.

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