“The dropout rate is something very important to our Board of Education and we examined it very closely at the end of the 2006-07 school year,” Superintendent George Norris wrote in an e-mail. “Our principals and teachers have been very instrumental by encouraging students to stay in school.”
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction announced statewide and county-by-county dropout statistics for the 2007-08 school year Wednesday. The state numbers declined from nearly 5.4 percent in 2006-07 to about 4.9 in 2007-08.
Norris said the goal of the school system is perfection.
“Our ultimate goal is to reach 100 percent graduation for our students,” Norris wrote. “Every measure by which we decrease the drop-out rate as we work toward this goal is a major accomplishment.
At the state level, nearly half of all students reported dropping out were due to attendance, and more ninth graders dropped out than any other grade. These statistics were not available for RCS.
The state’s report listed several strategies that have been effective in fighting the drop-out rate, including providing ninth grade academies to ease the transition to high school, credit recovery programs, academic intervention for students with low grades and programs to help students make-up absences.
“The programs at Richmond County Transitional School, Leak Street High and the Early College High School are all specialized strategies that strengthen our drop-out prevention efforts,” Norris wrote.
He also cited measures to address attendance issues.
“Richmond Senior High School and the Ninth Grade Academy have implemented new measures to address issues with attendance for high school students,” he wrote. “Notifications to parents concerning attendance are more frequent, and the Saturday school make-up program encourages students to stay on top of their absences.”
He didn’t comment concerning instances of students dropping out during the current school year.
A summary of the district report card was sent home with students on Friday of last week, when they received their own report cards.
“The data in the school report card provides an overview of how Richmond County Schools measure with state averages in several areas including student performance, school attendance, access to technology, school safety, and in the recruitment and retention of quality teachers,” Norris said.
At Tuesday night’s board meeting, RCS Director of Testing and Accountability Steve Lear told the Richmond County Board of Education that the district report card doesn’t give the reader a whole picture of what’s going on in the school district.
“It is an informative instrument, rather than an evaluative instrument,” Lear said. “So, you won’t find A’s and B’s like you would on a typical student report card, but you will find a great deal of information valuable to our parents and our community members.”
Norris said school officials saw several strengths reflected in the district’s report card, but still see room to improve, in an e-mail.
Norris listed the fact that at least half of the students in the school district are performing at or above grade level as a strength on end-of-grade testing.
He also listed strengths in effectively integrating technology into the classroom and having all district teachers considered highly qualified.
“We want to increase the number of students performing at or above grade level across the board in our school system,” Norris said.
He said the district is working to capitalize on its strengths in improving this statistic.
“The realignment of schools has really been the first major step in improving student learning and achievement,” Norris said.
He pointed out the importance of classroom teachers.
“We are also committed to increasing teacher capacity,” Norris said. “Our teachers and administrators are engaged in continuous staff development. We continue to emphasize student learning as our top priority.”
He also noted that team and grade-level planning, and activities that encourage students to take active roles in their education, are also encouraged in the classrooms of the county district.
“We have introduced new programs within our curriculum that have proven successful in other districts,” Norris said. “Our goal is to provide opportunities for all of our students to succeed.”