02/04/07 — County's dropout rate up from 2005

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County's dropout rate up from 2005

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 4, 2007 2:03 AM

The number of dropouts from Wayne County Public Schools has risen and is above the state's average, officials said.

Earlier this week, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released the state's annual dropout rate report. It showed that the annual rate for grades 9-12 increased from 4.7 percent in 2004-05 to 5.04 percent in the 2005-06 school year.

Comparatively, Wayne County's rates over the same period rose from 5.09 percent to 5.7 percent. Officials recorded 304 dropouts during 2004-05, with 344 reported during 2005-06.

Across the state, 22,180 dropout events were reported in grades 9-12.

State law requires school officials to record the reason for a student's decision to drop out of school. Recent trends show an increasing number of students have left high school to enroll in a community college.

Despite that, and regardless of whether students continue their education and go on to complete requirements for a high school diploma, students leaving high school are still considered to have dropped out of school under the state's policy.

The majority of dropout events are attributed to attendance issues. Other reasons identified include moving with school status unknown and academic problems.

While the results are troubling, educators are working to retain students, Superin-tendent Dr. Steven Taylor said.

"We are working with the state to implement high school reform efforts to help reach struggling students and help keep students engaged in the educational process," he said.

Last year, the school system opened Wayne Early Middle College High School and created a Freshman Academy at Goldsboro High School. Afterschool programs are also offered, as well as in-school tutoring and other outreach programs.

In the fall, a STEM school that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math will be introduced at Goldsboro High. Taylor said all of the traditional high schools will also launch freshman academies to help students successfully transition from middle to high school.

"Ninth grade is a vulnerable year for our young people, and we want to help them build a strong foundation that can carry them through high school and into college or the workforce," he said.

The schools are doing a great job preparing students for life after graduation, Taylor said, but there is still much work to be done.

"As educators, we cannot allow ourselves to become satisfied with our successes until every student who comes into our school system leaves with a high school diploma and is educationally prepared to compete in the global markets of the 21st century," he said.