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Consultant presents research on dropout rates at meeting

June 01, 2007|by ASHLEY HARTMAN

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Student dropout rates continue to be a concern for the Chambersburg Area School District, a consultant told the school board this week.

In 2005-06, 45 students dropped out of the Chambersburg Area School District, according to the "Public Secondary School Dropouts" report by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Thirty-eight of the 45 were from Chambersburg Area Senior High School. The district's total enrollment is 3,904.

"Any student dropping out is a concern to me because we know a high school diploma is so important to the future of that young person," Assistant Superintendent Eric Michael said.

Although 45 is below the national average, it is a consistent average for the district, Michael said.

"We are addressing to put in place a system so that those students do not fall through the cracks," he said.

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Nancy Stepler, who was hired by the board in November to study dropout rates in the district, presented at Wednesday's meeting research that she has been conducting for the past six months about student dropout rates.

"My primary focus is on the students I brought with me," Stepler said, referring to the four students at the meeting who shared why they dropped out of school.

"When I started ... I first looked at the reasons why students drop out," she said.

Some of the reasons include mental illness, poor attendance, drug and alcohol abuse, courses that are too easy or too difficult, issues at home, boredom, teenage pregnancy and low economic status, Stepler said.

"We know that the issues that these young people face are issues that don't always happen in school and are a reflection on society and family," Michael said. "Not to minimize our responsibility, but we also have to take into account the responsibility of the community, the family - obviously this is not a problem that can be solved by the school itself."

At age 16, a student can withdraw from school by applying for a general working certificate. At 17, a student can drop out of school without their parent's approval.

One of the students Stepler brought with her was an 18-year-old male who dropped out of Faust Junior High School with a general working certificate.

"There were a lot more students here (at Faust)," than at Waynesboro (Pa.) Area Middle School, he said. "Faust is just a whole other monster."

While at Faust, the young man said he began doing drugs and having sex. He failed ninth grade.

"I pretty much dug myself into a hole," he said. "I pretty much gave up on school."

The young man attends Manito's Alternative High School in Chambersburg, and said he receives the individual help he needs.

Another student shared her story during Stepler's presentation.

"I had a really bad home life," the girl said. "School was a place I could get away."

The girl said that during elementary school, she always was on the honor roll and enjoyed school. When she began attending Faust Junior High School, her problems at home worsened. She was living with an alcoholic father when her mother was disabled in an accident.

She said school counselors offered little help because they were responsible for too many other students.

In 10th grade, she missed 98 days of school, but was promoted to 11th grade.

"I honestly feel I should have been kept in 10th grade" and not moved along, she said.

Stepler's recommendations to the school board were to stay committed to the issue and have a centralized withdrawal system for students who want to drop out.

"Make it a little more difficult" to drop out by having someone in the Chambersburg Area School District Administrative Building interview a student who is considering dropping out, Stepler said.

"That process may make a difference," she said.

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