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Dropout rate in Washington County schools hits a 10-year low

October 14, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The dropout rate for Washington County high schools is the lowest it has been in more than 10 years, jumping from near last place to 10th in the state in just three years.

The improved 2001-02 rate, at 3.02 percent, down from 5.5 percent in 2000, is due to honed dropout prevention programs in middle and high schools and the staff and students who work through them, said Boyd Michael III, the county school system's executive director of secondary education.

Boyd said the schools are "really trying to plug that hole - whether it's a social or emotional issue that's keeping them from being successful."

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The state's average dropout rate is 3.69 percent, Michael said.

At Springfield Middle School, Principal Dave Reeder said students who have trouble with reading, writing or math on functional tests have an opportunity to attend Saturday School to raise scores.

"When they hit high school, they'll feel successful already," he said.

Reeder, a former North Hagerstown High School principal, said the transition from middle school to high school can be particularly tough and many students struggle during their freshman year. Middle schools are working to smooth the transition by letting students know more about the expectations placed on students at the high school level.

He said The Evening High School, with the worst, but greatly improved, dropout rate, has been a savior for a lot of kids.

The Evening High School had a 44.10 percent dropout rate in 2000, but this year the rate dropped to 21.62 percent.

Michael said South Hagerstown High School improved the most, dropping from a 5.98 percent rate in 2000 to a 1.17 percent rate in the 2001-02 academic year.

The Maryland State Department of Education has been calculating dropouts with the same formula since 1990. The number of students in grades nine through 12 dropping out of school within a single year are included in the percentage rate. The percentage is calculated by dividing the number of dropouts by the total number of students in grades nine through 12 served by the school.

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