Room for improvement | SteamboatToday.com

Room for improvement

Despite relatively low dropout rates, area school officials want better

Zach Fridell

As Dennis Alt sees it, no stone should be left unturned when determining why a student dropped out before graduation day – and what could have been done differently.

“It’s our failure for not meeting their needs,” the Soroco High School principal said Friday. “When we lose a student, we’re pretty worried about them and their future.

According to new data released by the Colorado Department of Education, all three Routt County public high schools performed well above the state and national averages for graduation rates during the 2006-07 school year. Soroco’s graduation rate was 90.5 percent, while Steamboat’s rate was 87.1 percent. Hayden’s graduation rate was 82.9 percent.

A total of 18 middle school and high school students dropped out of Routt County schools during the 2006-07 school year. The Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts had a total of 1,546 students in grades seven through 12 that year. Eleven students left the Steamboat Springs district without enrolling in another program, while three students left Hayden, and four students left South Routt.

Alt said his school responds to students at risk of dropping out by giving them personal attention and trying to fulfill needs they may have.

“We try to prevent (students dropping out) by making as many interventions as possible,” he said.

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The school uses several programs for struggling students, including after-school tutoring and an extra math class.

“We also try to get students involved in as many after-school activities as possible. Statistics show that the more things that kids are involved in at school, the better they do,” Alt said.

In Hayden, students are encouraged by a team of concerned adults to remain in school, Superintendent Greg Rockhold said.

“We work to engage students, staff, administrators, counselors and parents so there are five folks involved in setting up a game plan for the student’s success,” Rockhold said. “It lets the student know that there are adults who will listen to them and that there are school folks who will listen to their needs and then guide them down that route to future success.”

Although Hayden’s graduation rate of 82.9 percent was well above the average for Colorado (75 percent) and the nation (68.6 percent), Rockhold said the district can’t accept anything less than perfection.

“Given that it’s three students (who dropped out in the 2006-07 year), I’m not willing to accept it. I’m willing to tackle it and see that we’re at 100 percent graduation,” he said.

Alt agreed that no dropouts are acceptable. In an effort to keep students in school, he addresses the most common reasons students give for leaving. Those reasons typically involve finding a job before graduation, he said.

“I think a lot of times they’re looking for a quick fix to their current problems or dilemmas, so they think that working and making money is a better option than spending their time at school,” he said.

Some students are in a rush to become adults, he said, while others feel they need to get jobs to help their families.

“The biggest thing we can tell them is their ultimate success later in life is going to be closely correlated to their level of education, and by staying in school and getting an education, they give themselves a choice later in life about what kinds of careers they get.”

All three school districts have taken other steps in recent years to keep kids in school longer. The Yampa Valley High School, an alternative program open to students in all three school districts, has provided options for students not interested in the traditional education setting. Area schools also have increased the availability of online classes in a variety of subject areas that are of particular interest to individual students, and Hayden recently put the finishing touches on the Babson-Carpenter Career and Technical Education Center.

– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

At a glance

Graduation rates for the 2006-07 school year

– Hayden School District: 82.9

– Steamboat Springs School District: 87.1

– South Routt School District: 90.5

Note: Scores are calculated from the number of students who graduate in four years.

Source: Colorado Department of Education