09/11/08 — Board details dropout number

View Archive

Board details dropout number

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 11, 2008 1:34 PM

Wayne County Board of Education members Monday night set out to educate county commissioners about the dropout numbers.

They hope to extend that education to the public, while at the same time involving community members in dropout prevention -- the topic for school board's first "Kitchen Table Conversation" to be held Monday, Sept. 29, from 7 to 8:45 p.m. at Madison Avenue Baptist Church.

"We can't do it by ourselves," board Chairman Thelma Smith said. "We need the public's help."

Mrs. Smith said she wants county commissioners, City Council members, principals and teachers to participate, but only as observers.

"I want them to look and listen as to what is going on," she said. "This a conversation with the community."

The idea for the event originated with the Durham County Public Schools. Earlier this summer, Durham school officials attended a joint meeting of county commissioners and Board of Education.

"We are encouraging the community, parents, anyone interested to participate," said Olivia Pierce, executive director community relations, media and technology.

Seating is limited, and community members should call 705-6164 to register.

The concept involves participants sitting down at a "kitchen table" complete with a checkerboard table cloth to talk about school-related issues.

Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability, will present statistics on the county's dropout and graduation rates.

Following his presentation, participants will break out into smaller groups for brainstorming sessions on what causes dropouts, solutions for dropout prevention and awareness of present strategies.

Mrs. Smith also will speak on the power of parental involvement.

During their Monday meeting, board members said the 30 percent dropout rate being used by some commissioners does not accurately reflect the actual rate.

Board member Rick Pridgen said the county has a large percent of military students who often move before graduating. The county also has students from the county's large seasonal Hispanic population.

"They might come back a second year and leave again, and they are counted twice," he said.

Board member George Moye said the dropout rate actually includes some students who do graduate.

Moye said it is important for the public to be aware of the six categories that impact the graduation rate.

For example, the dropout rate includes students who graduate in more than four years, students who drop out, return to school and graduate and students who transfer to Wayne Community College's Adult high School Diploma Program and graduate with a N.C. high school diploma.

"Now, the chairman of the Wayne County Board of Education signs those diplomas," Moye said. 'There is a thick stack that will take in excess of an hour to sign all of those diplomas. So there are a lot. It would number in the hundreds, but these people are considered dropouts. But they didn't drop out, they graduated from high school."

Even students who drop out, only to return to school and graduate are still counted as dropouts.

"N.C. considers them a dropout because they dropped out," he said. "They don't count the fact that they came back and graduated."

Also included are students who attend and graduate from the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.

"These are among some of the brightest kids who have come through Wayne County Public Schools," Moye said.

Students with disabilities who earn a graduation certificate also are included in the dropout rate.

"It seems a little be rough to count them as a dropout," he said. "They have been there and done their best."

And finally, the rate counts students who drop out of school and do not return and students who move out of state and cannot be located.

Moye said the public should be most concerned about students who drop out of school and do not return.

"The only one (of the categories) that has any validity is students who drop out of school and do not return," he said. "And that is not 100 percent valid because of the School of Science and Mathematics. I feel like it is important for those people who want to comment on the graduation rate to have an understanding of what they are talking about.

"For the most part they don't have a clue. They have been told, but for some reason it didn't registered. If you look at the list maybe you will understand that our dropout rate, our real dropout rate, is not even near 27 percent. I dare say it is closer to 5 or 6 percent."