Dropout rates inch up in region

POLK COUNTY - Dropout rates at most Polk County school districts jumped slightly last year.

POLK COUNTY - Dropout rates at most Polk County school districts jumped slightly last year.

Eighty-three students dropped out of area high schools in 2006-07, according to figures released by the Oregon Department of Education on April 9. Those numbers don't include Salem-Keizer campuses in West Salem.

Statewide, the rate increased to 4.4 percent from 4.1 percent in 2005-06. The latter had been Oregon's lowest rate since 1991.

"Historically, Oregon's dropout rate has changed with ups and downs in the economy," said Susan Castillo, state schools superintendent. "Often, a student makes the decision to drop out because of the availability of jobs, especially when the economy is prospering as it was in 2006."

ODE's report presents rates for students who dropped out of grades 7-12 between July 1 and June 30 by school, district and county, and more detailed information for students who dropped out of grades 9-12.

The state defines dropouts as students who withdrew from school and did not graduate or transfer to another school that leads to graduation or their GED certificate or a modified diploma.

Forty-two seniors, 15 juniors, seven sophomores and one freshman dropped out of high school in Polk County, the report said.

Thirty-one students dropped out of Dallas High School in 2006-07, three more than the previous year. The dropout rate rose by a tenth of a percent to 2.9 percent.

Only three of the 171 students at Morrison Charter School, Dallas' alternative program, dropped out last year.

At Central High, 47 students left school last year. The dropout rate of 5.5 percent was almost half a percent more than in 2005-06.

"Of course we would like to see that number lower," said Central Principal Sylvia Warren. "We're working to have more alternative choices available for kids to keep them in school and trying to earn a diploma."

Pregnancy and falling behind the requisite number of credit hours were two of the most common reasons students at Dallas and Central high school gave for leaving school, according to the report.

Sixteen students dropped out at Central because of dysfunctional home lives, and another nine for lack of parental support.

Warren said the high school has begun offering curriculum online to help catch up students who are out of school, lack credits or transfer from out of state.

She also noted a recently implemented policy in which students who failed English and science courses in one semester may make that work up the following term during after-school hours.

"We want them to have an opportunity to be successful, so they stop feeling like there's no hope," Warren said.

The county's rural school districts, Falls City and Perrydale, each had just one dropout.

Statewide, dropout rates for white students jumped from 3.3 percent to 3.6 percent. There were rate increases for every other ethnic subgroup, except Latinos, who dropped by half a percent to 7.9 percent.

Sixty-three percent of the county's dropouts where white. Latinos accounted for 25 percent of the total amount - 21 students - though that figure is 8 percent less than last year.

Dallas and Central reported no dropouts in their respective middle schools, according to ODE.

To view the Oregon Department of Education's 2006-07 dropout report, go to the reports, data and statistics section of the ODE web site, www.ode.state.or.us.


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