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Dropout rate drops

Officials credit programs, focus on at-risk students

Officials credit programs, focus on at-risk students

July 17, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools' dropout rate fell to its lowest point since at least the 1993-1994 school year, according to year-end estimates released Tuesday.

School officials attributed the decline, in part, to a 3-year-old middle school tutoring program that targets potential dropouts, the alternative high school, and added focus on at-risk students by teachers and administrators.

An estimated 181 students, about 3 percent, dropped out of school during the 2001-2002 school year, Director of Secondary Education Boyd Michael said.

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Board of Education member Roxanne Ober said she thinks the dropout rate has never been less than 3 percent.

Statistics made available on Tuesday showed the dropout rate since the 1993-1994 school year.

According to those statistics, the dropout rate over the last 10 school years ranged from a low of about 3.6 percent in 1993-1994 to a high of almost 5.6 percent in the 1999-2000 school year.

During the 2000-2001 school year, 231 students, almost 3.8 percent, dropped out, according to the figures.

Michael said the official dropout figures for the 2001-2002 school year will be released by the state in the fall. He said there is a chance the final number of dropouts could change because it is possible students who moved out of the county were miscounted. But the official number will probably not be different by more than two or three students, Michael said.

Michael attributed the lower dropout rate to "a whole bunch of little things," such as the alternative high school, which is for students who have had behavioral problems at other schools, and the middle school tutoring program.

"And a lot of people worked very hard, the principals, teachers, counselors, parents and students," he said.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she's happy with the downward trend, and wants to see the dropout rate drop to 2 percent.

The statistics were part of a presentation Michael gave to the School Board Tuesday about the four-period schedule now in use at county high schools.

In addition to the dropout rate, Michael presented other information that showed high school students are taking more classes, more students are taking advanced-level classes and average attendance is also higher than in recent years.

Meanwhile, county students' average SAT scores are staying around 500 in both the math and verbal parts of the test, according to the figures.

"I'm not saying there's a cause and effect" with the use of the four-period schedule, Michael said. "I'm just sharing the information."

County high schools have gradually adopted the four-period schedule over the last 10 years, starting with Williamsport High School in the 1993-1994 school year. Last year, Clear Spring and Boonsboro high schools adopted it.

Previously, high schools used a seven-period schedule, Michael said.

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