The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 11, 2013

Raleigh dropout rate appears to be improving

BECKLEY — Raleigh County Schools attendance director Millard Francis reported that 49 high school students have dropped out thus far this school year.

With more than 100 students dropping out last year, Francis said this year the county is trending to have fewer. By this month last year there were 60 exits.

The number of students exiting high school increased over the month of September this school year and then leveled out.

School officials expect another spike during the next month and then the numbers should taper off again.

Twenty-nine students have left Woodrow Wilson High School, four have left Shady and eight have exited at both Independence and Liberty.

Superintendent Jim Brown explained how much these school exits affect not only the individual students, but the entire district.

Between 35 withdrawals and 49 dropouts, Brown said the school system loses $8,500 in funding for each student for a total of loss of more than $714,000.

“When you disperse 84 students over a district, you won’t see that you need one less teacher here or one less teacher here. You have to continue to do what you are doing with three-quarters of $1 million less funding,” he said.

Board President Richard Snuffer expressed his concern that statistics show the students who leave school without graduating are much more likely to get in trouble with the law.

In the past, Raleigh County’s rates have been lower than state average. According to West Virginia Department of Education (2009-2010) data, the state dropout rate was 2.7 percent and the Raleigh County average was 2.5 percent.

Individual high schools have presented a higher than state average rate, however. Independence High School had a rate of 5.5 in 2010-2011.

Brown told Francis that the dropout rate is a number “we all own, from classroom teachers to cooks, bus drivers and our leadership team. It is going to take all of us to improve it.”

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