ENC Regional News
11:13 am
Tue February 26, 2008

Declining drop-out rate in Wayne County

Declining drop-out rate in Wayne County

New Bern, NC –
INTRO - A report released earlier this month by the Department of Public Instruction showed an increase in the drop-out rate last year 5.24 percent of students in grades 9-12 dropped out in the 2006-2007 school year compared to 5.04 percent the year before. The report noted that close to half 43%... of school districts actually saw a decrease in their drop-out rate, with large increases in a handful of school districts accounting for the rate increase. Among those school districts showing a decrease was the Wayne County Public School system, with their rate dropping from 5.7% to 4.16%. George Olsen has more.

The drop-out rate in Wayne County had been above the state rate in recent years, so the 27% decline in drop-out numbers was a welcome one. Last year's 4.16% rate was the lowest in the last six years evidence perhaps that programs put in place to stem the drop-out rate might be taking hold.

00:37 Other things we have done is to start a Wayne School of Engineering at Goldsboro High School, which is a STEM school science, technology, engineering and math for 9th graders, and it targets students who are first generation college goers. We also set up a middle college program and an early college program at Wayne Early Middle College High School on the campus of Wayne Community College. These students have stayed in school and done very well, all of them but one graduated last year.

Sandra McCullen, the associate superintendent for curriculum & instruction with Wayne County Public Schools, mentioning two of the programs in place to help keep kids in school. Getting the programs running is certainly an important step toward keeping students in school, but the first step and what McCullen refers to as the school system's biggest challenge is getting those in need into the programs.

07:02 Many times parents and families are reluctant to tell you they have situations they need help with. Trying to develop trusting relationships with families and students so they'll see school personnel as helpful is a tremendous hurdle but it can be very rewarding.

It's not always academic needs that are keeping students from completing high school sometimes its personal reasons pulling them from continuing their education.

04:52 What we find is typically our drop-outs may be our higher academic students who for some reason may be disenfranchised from a traditional program. We also, in Wayne County, we have over 60% free-and-reduced lunch, and we have children who have a lot of needs, they may need to work to help support their family. We may have students who have children of their own and they may need to go to a doctor for medical issues.

In addition to programs mentioned earlier, there are also distance education classes, freshman academies, career academies and mentor programs all geared toward keeping students in school which school administrators direct students to in order to keep their education on track. With the drop-out rate declining, it indicates school personnel such as guidance counselors could be finding the right combination of programs to keep students in school. Neverthless, McCullen believes that creating drop-out prevention counselor positions in Wayne County Public Schools would help continue the trend.

09:17 The counselors and social workers work with this a great deal. However, the counselors work with our testing program. As you know we have a huge accountability program in N-C and with No Child Left Behind we have to provide the testing to the students in grades 3 thru 8 and high school, so that takes up a lot of their time.

With varying needs for each student, all those programs to pull together, plus having to meet testing standards, stemming the drop-out tide will certainly require schools to be flexible what McCullen regularly referred to as personalized education.

02:45 Traditional school settings are not for everybody, so we've tried to think outside of the box, as they say, provide whatever it takes.

Sandra McCullen is the associate superintendent for curriculum & instruction with Wayne County Public Schools. I'm George Olsen.