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Lee School District dropout rates plunge

By Staff | Feb 24, 2011

The Lee County School District has consistently seen an increase in the number of students who graduate every year, board members were told Tuesday.
Dr. Constance Jones, chief academic officer shared the statistics about student dropouts during a briefing session.
During the 2002-2003 school year there were 1,424 student dropouts or 5.9 percent of the student population, which has decreased to 354 students or 1.3 percent during 2009-2010, officials were told.
The rate is calculated from all of the 12th grade students who enrolled in the district four years previously. Jones said they look at all students ninth through 12th grade once a year during the month of September.
The increased graduation rate for can be attributed to the many strategies they have implemented to keep student in school throughout their high school career, Jones said.
Board Chairman Tom Scott said, still, when he hears the percentage rate for dropouts, he thinks that there has to be some lack of connection with the students.
“How can we connect with them and when do we find out when we are not connecting with them?” he said. “Every teacher and administer needs to be aware of this.”
There are eight different codes for student dropouts. Those codes include not entering school as expected for unknown reasons; leaves voluntarily with no intention of returning; court action; nonattendance; medical reasons; expelled from school; whereabouts are unknown or any other reason.
Jones said it is important to understand that exit interviews are conducted with each student, so they can encourage them to stay in school. The guidance counselor at the student’s school will conduct the exit interview or a referral is sent to the school’s social worker to track the student down to conduct the interview.
The top four answers as to why a student dropped out of school included he or she was missing too many days, did not like school, was failing classes or their classes were not interesting. Jones said the primary and secondary reasons were the same but in a different order.
“We have taken this data to the heart to figure out ways to address it,” she said.
Vice Chairman Mary Fischer said if students feel that they are valued and that there is a place at the school for them, then they will stay and graduate.
The students also told officials that opportunities for real-world learning, more individualized instruction, smaller classrooms and better communication with teachers would have kept them in school.
Jones said they have applied various strategies to keep the students enrolled, which she believes has had a direct impact on more students graduating.
Career and technical academies, Jones said, have been a huge asset for the district in student retention because such courses provide them with a hands-on experience. Advanced courses have also played a role in the increased graduation rate among students.
Fourteen schools have also implemented the AVID program in the district, which requires a contract with the students and parents for at-risk students to help them graduate and attend college.
Jones said elective courses and additional tutoring also have contributed to the increased graduation rate, along with the eight- period day.
Scott addressed parent involvement because he believes parents should take responsibility in the child’s education. He proposed a contract, “agreement to assist” “to get the parent to agree to participate with teachers and principals with the education of their child.”
Scott said his intention is to come up with some sort of partnership arrangement with the parents, so they can turn the students on to school.
“I’m going to keep bringing it up until we decide we will or won’t do something about this,” he said.
Fischer said she thought the board should begin by looking at schools that already have high parent involvement, to see what they are doing to have these parents involved.
“Parent involvement has always been the biggest challenge,” she said. “We are with you on this.”