"We really do not have a high dropout rate in comparison to the number of students that go to school here and the number that graduate," Assistant Supt. of Curriculum Kim Tucker said. "But one student dropout is one too many."
The goal was to highlight the dropout problem as a community while bringing public awareness to the challenges schools face to ensure "at-risk" students stay in school and graduate.
Parents and students joined Tucker, Director of Curriculum and Grants Kathy Knust, Clay City Jr./Sr. High School Principal Jeff Bell, Northview High School Principal Tim Rayle, North Clay Middle School Principal Jeff Allen, Meridian Elementary Principal Karen Phillips, Clay City Elementary Principal Dorene Kenworthy, Cumberland Academy Principal Lisa Showalter and Linking Education to Adults, Adolescents and Preschoolers (LEAAP) Center Coordinator Mary Yelton in the discussion.
Tucker presented information regarding the percentage of students who have graduated as well as the graduation rates within the Western Indiana Conference (WIC) that are the approximate size and socioeconomic level compared to Clay Community Schools.
For the 2008-09, CCSC had an 83-percent graduation rate compared to 89.3 percent at Brown County School Corporation, 79 percent at Eastern Greene Schools, 86.6 percent at North Putnam Community School, 86.5 percent at South Putnam Community Schools, 77.5 percent for South Vermillion Community School Corporation and 74.8 percent at Spencer-Owen Community Schools.
Discussion ensued about the how graduation rates are figured by the Indiana Department of Education.
"In 2009, there were a total of 17 students that dropped out of the corporation," Tucker said. "Three students were sophomores, six were juniors and eight were seniors."
According to Tucker, five of students were female and 12 were male. Ten of them were from socially economical disadvantaged environments and 11 were receiving special education services. One of the students had passing grades and seven had passed both sections of the Graduation Qualifying Exam (GQE). The average attendance was more than 20 absences per year.
"When a student misses that much academic time it is hard to make that up," Tucker said. "Poor attendance can be related to any number of reasons, but the most common are health issues, drugs, alcohol, depression and working late during the evenings and weekends."
Tucker continued by discussing the types of offenses that students cause such as truancy, fighting, constant disruption, threats made to other students, drug possession and theft. The misbehavior can result in multiple suspensions and expulsion at the middle and high schools.
"Some of the research-based strategies for dropout prevention include mentoring or tutoring, service learning, alternative schooling and after school opportunities," she said. "Early interventions such as early childhood education, family engagement and early literacy development have been proven to have a direct impact on the future of the community."
The individuals in charge of the interventions that are currently in place for students gave brief descriptions of each program and the success. Some of these programs include Cumberland Academy, Court Ordered Placement for Education (C.O.P.E.), Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG), READ 180/System 44, Advanced Placement (AP)/dual credit agreements with area colleges and universities. As well as the developmental preschool and Title 1 preschool, Adult Basic Education (GED) and the Family Literacy Program sponsored at the LEAAP Center. There are also Kids, Family and Community (KFC), the YMCA Summer Day Camp and the YMCA After School Programs.
"You can see a big difference in students with mentoring program," Tucker said. "Some students just need that person to give them that extra boost of confidence."
Those in attendance broke into small groups to help generate more ideas, some of which would include an increase in communication with parents, identify potential "at-risk" students earlier, more professional development for teachers regarding "at-risk" students and forming a parent support group.
"We need the support of the community," Tucker said. "Because one child dropping out is one too many."