02/11/08 — Dropout rate down in county schools

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Dropout rate down in county schools

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 11, 2008 1:46 PM

Wayne County Public Schools had 101 fewer dropouts during 2006-2007 than the previous year, according to the annual dropout report just released by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Statewide, a total of 23,550 students, or 5.24 percent of students in grades 9-12, dropped out of school in the 2006-2007 school year. The previous year it was 5.04 percent, or 22,180 students.

In Wayne County, the rate dipped from 5.7 percent to 4.16 percent.

When expanded to include grades 7-12, the local rate went from 3.89 percent in 2005-2006 to 2.83 percent. More specifically, there were 254 students who dropped out of school last year, compared to 355 the year before.

Of the 115 school districts in the state, 43 percent reported a decrease in the rates. Large increases in a handful of school districts pushed up the state average, state officials said, while Washington, Clay and Camden counties showed dropout rate decreases by nearly 50 percent.

Local school officials are attributing their decline to shored-up efforts of teachers and administrators across the county, preparing students for testing and graduation.

Among the efforts targeting the dropout problem has been the creation of several initiatives in the school system. Distance education classes, a take home computer program, and freshman academies are among them, as well as the launch of the Early Middle College High School in the fall of 2006 and the Wayne School of Engineering in the fall of 2007 with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Mentor programs at the elementary, middle and high schools are also being offered for at risk students. Student support services have also been provided for families through school counselors, social workers, school nurses and psychologists, officials said. An area that continues to come under debate is vocational training and preparation for the workforce, particularly geared toward students who may not otherwise go on to college.

In addition to efforts to provide more vocational courses, the school system is working on a partnership with Wayne Community College to create career academies aimed at better prepare students for careers in business/finance or engineering after graduation.

Though pleased, Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent, said there is still much to be done.

"As educators, we recognize there are circumstances that cause some students to become disenfranchised with their education," he said. "Our schools have worked hard to offer programs that help keep students engaged in the educational process and we evaluate those programs each year to see which programs work best for students."

Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said, "We still need some work but we're so proud of what our social workers, our counselors, freshman academies and all the other things that we put into place to help with our dropout rate."