Polk County dropout rate down 21 percent

Published 7:26 pm Thursday, March 25, 2010

Students at Polk County High School are less likely to drop out than students in many other districts in Western North Carolina and the rest of the state, according to figures from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
The number of dropouts at Polk County High School in 2008-2009 declined by about 21 percent compared to the prior year.
Polk County High already was below the statewide and regional average dropout rates, but moved even further below with the latest decline in the 2008-2009 school year.
Polk County had 31 dropouts in 2008-2009 for a rate of 3.87 percent, down from 4.87 pct in the prior year.
North Carolina had a total of 19,184 high school dropouts in 2008-2009. The state average dropout rate fell to a record low 4.27 percent from 4.97 percent in the prior year.
The average for 17 school districts in Western North Carolina fell 19 percent to 4.51 percent.
“At PCHS we continue to try and reach every student and provide for them a learning environment that meets their needs,” says Polk County High Principal Aaron Greene. “If you look at the ten-year average for western NC, we are second-lowest in dropout percentage, a statistic that indicates we are having success with many of our at-risk students. Still, even one dropout is one too many.”
The number of dropouts at Polk County High in 2008-2009 was below the schools average of about 34 dropouts a year over the past seven years, and well below a recent high of 48 dropouts in 2004-2005.
Polk County Schools administrators say numerous factors, including many outside of academic performance, can lead a student to drop out. To help keep more students in school, Polk County offers not only an academic recovery center and counseling services, but also a variety of academic paths.
Students can choose from multiple vocational programs, including an educational farm. The district also operates a growing Virtual Early College, which provides an alternative learning environment and additional access to college credit courses.
“Our focus has always been to get to know the student and their situation in order to tailor solutions to meet their individual needs,” says Greene. “With our Academic Recovery Center (ARC) program with Josh Hill as Director and our Student Services department providing interventions and support, our at-risk students are afforded resources they otherwise would not have access to.
“I would also say that Polk County has been tremendous in offering assistance through social services and mental health organizations and personnel.”
According to the state, males are more at risk of dropping out, particularly in ninth grade. The state says male students account for 59 percent of reported dropouts, and adds that American Indians and African American males are more at risk.
That was not the case in Polk County in the 2008-2009 year. Polk had 17 female and 14 male dropouts, while 30 of them were white and one was Hispanic.
According to the state, higher suspension rates generally lead to higher dropout rates. State figures show Polk County High had a very low rate of suspensions and had no expulsions in 2008-2009.
“When school officials, parents, and the community get behind students and programs, we see great results. As always, I would add that in my opinion our teachers and staff are second to none in working with students, and we are fortunate to have leadership at the Superintendent and Board of Education level that believes in doing what is necessary to help students reach their potential,” says Greene. “Though we have seen ups and downs in these numbers and will continue to have good years and trying years, overall PCHS works hard to create a school environment that is conducive to learning and limits negative behaviors.”

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