JPS officials work to curb dropoutsStudents enter or leave Jamestown Public Schools almost daily for a multitude of reasons. At the high school level, some simply quit. “There isn’t hardly a day that goes by that I don’t get an enrollment update from an elementary school, the middle school or the high school,” said JPS Superintendent Bob Toso.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
Students enter or leave Jamestown Public Schools almost daily for a multitude of reasons. At the high school level, some simply quit.
“There isn’t hardly a day that goes by that I don’t get an enrollment update from an elementary school, the middle school or the high school,” said JPS Superintendent Bob Toso.
The most recent figures indicate that during the first semester of the 2011-2012 school year, 19 students dropped out at Jamestown High School. Other students left the district but are not considered dropouts because their families moved, they switched to home schooling or they graduated from Jamestown North.
Of the 19 who dropped out during the first semester of the 2011-2012 school year, 10 students pursued a GED certificate, two entered the Job Corps and seven dropped out due to lack of interest, non-attendance or not showing up to class.
The consequences of dropping out can be expensive. According to a report by the National Education Association, 18- to 24-year-olds make these average annual salaries at the following education levels:
* no high school diploma, $22,000.
* high school diploma or equivalent, $29,000.
* associate’s degree, $34,000.
* bachelor’s degree or more college, $45,000.
* master’s degree or more education, $50,000.
The graduation rate
For 2010-2011, Jamestown High School had a graduation rate of 85.64 percent, which is calculated based on the number of graduates each year compared to the number of dropouts.
For other cities that year, the rate ranged from 83.85 percent in Grand Forks to 91.53 percent in Wahpeton. Statewide, the rate was 86.2 percent for all students.
Graduation rates in Jamestown rose from 86.1 to 87.2 percent from 2007-2008 to 2008-2009, but dipped to 85.6 percent in 2009-2010.
From 2008-2010 Jamestown had a higher graduation rate than the state, by a slight amount.
“The Jamestown grad rate falls within the tight band, within the state rates,” said Greg Gallagher, director of standards and achievement with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.
That rank puts Jamestown with the 37th worst graduation rate out of 159 districts during 2010-2011.
But 44 schools, mostly rural, had a graduation rate of 95 percent. If a district’s graduation rate is more than 95 percent, DPI lists it at 95 percent so students’ individual results can’t be tabulated because the districts are smaller, Gallagher said.
Spotting problems early
“It’s a community issue, it’s a K-12 issue, it’s not a Jamestown High School issue,” Toso said of working to cut the dropout rate.
Toso has been meeting for about two years with Brian Washburn, juvenile court officer for Stutsman, Foster, Eddy and Wells counties, and local administrators to create a plan to help keep students in school.
However, because the problem is so complex, no timetable for implementation has been set.
There is a plethora of things officials can do to combat the dropout rate, officials said. Monitoring attendance at an early age is vital.
Washburn said the problem isn’t confined to schools, or even just showing up at school.
“These are kids that all live in our community and we want them all to grow up and be productive citizens in our community,” he said. “Research tells us that if you’re not successful in school, you could be living off the system that our taxpayers pay for.”
Washburn said a wide variety of red flags shown by younger students can point to who is more at risk of dropping out in the future.
“Really we’re starting to see (red flags in) very younger-age children and it might not be for truancy issues, it might be for behavioral issues in the classroom,” he said.
Some children show red flags as early as elementary school.
If it’s a problem for children to complete their homework and even bring it home, it should be considered serious, Washburn said. Other issues include difficulty getting a child out of bed or children making excuses to not go to school.
“I see a lot of kids that say they’re being bullied in school and that’s why they don’t want to go,” Washburn said. “Whether that’s a legitimate complaint or argument, I don’t know.”
Bullying may be an issue or other times students may try to use it as an excuse to not go to school, Washburn said.
Students are considered truant if they are under age 16 and have missed five classes with unexcused absences. When this happens, Washburn sends a notice and tries to set up a meeting with the student and parents or guardians.
However, parents often will say their child was sick and then nothing can be done about the truancy.
“It could be a wide array of issues that could be going on with the child, or the parent, or both,” Washburn said of red flags and missed classes.
Other reasons for leaving
Categorizing why exactly students relocate to another district is a difficult task, Toso said. Often, parents are hesitant to give a reason, but mostly it’s a move to smaller neighboring school districts.
“I would say the primary reason given is smaller class sizes and smaller schools,” Toso said of those who leave Jamestown.
A smaller school can sometimes help better meet the needs for individual students versus a larger school where teachers have more students, Toso said.
Plus, some parents who attended smaller rural schools want the same type of individualized education setting for their children.
The district does conduct an exit survey, but results haven’t been promising as most are reluctant to give specific information, Toso said. The Parent Awareness/Prevention Center also polls those who decide to leave the district on a voluntary basis.
“I’m not always sure if you’re in an emotional situation that people are fully in touch with what their emotions are, or again, if it’s emotional they may not wish to share that emotion,” Toso said.
Often, school counselors and administration will work with a family and convince them to stay in the district. Sometimes it works.
Every student counts as the state funds foundation aid to each district once a year for every student enrolled. In 2011-2012 the amount was $3,910 per student.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org