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New Research on Dropouts

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Four indicators to help achieve a no-dropout rate for LPOSD

A recent study conducted in the public school system of Philadelphia claims that four variables play a significant role in whether or not a student graduates or drops out. They claim these indicators can be identified as early as sixth grade. The study followed 13,000 students from 1996 until 2004, to demonstrate how four predictive indicators in sixth grade can be used to identify 60 percent of the students who will not graduate from high school. If correct, this information can help parents and school staff to prevent the tragedy of dropping out before high school.

The Panhandle is certainly different than Philadelphia, but what motivates students or determines why they drop out is similar in my opinion. Let’s take a closer look at these four indicators and ask yourself how you might help to keep your child focused on school.

The first indicator is attendance. Students who attended school less than 80 percent of the time in eighth grade had a tendency to drop out. This is a simple equation. Ask yourself if you are doing your part by making sure your child attends school, even when they have that little cold. Remember, 80 percent means they are attending four out of every five days. Students and parents should aim for 100 percent attendance!

The second indicator is math failure at sixth grade. Studies across the country demonstrate that mathematics is a gateway to future success in school. Do you help your student at home with math? Do you follow up with your student’s teacher to make sure they are making solid progress in mathematics? What did you learn at your parent conference this fall?

The third indicator is language arts failure in sixth grade. Reading skills are critical for success in every class your student will take in middle school and high school. Reading is a learned and practiced activity. Are you reinforcing reading time at home if your sixth grader struggles in this subject area? If they are failing this subject, make an appointment with your student’s teacher immediately.

The fourth indicator in the study was one or more school suspensions in sixth grade. You may think the teacher or principal were unfair, but if your child has been suspended in sixth grade, ask yourself if some of the above factors affect your student as well. Then, make sure your student knows you expect them to follow all school rules.

The study went on to list a fifth factor, although this did not correlate as strongly as the four listed above. This factor is simply ongoing behavior problems in sixth grade without reaching suspension.

So, ask yourself how your sixth grader fits into this list. Certainly, there are children who meet one of the above criteria who sail right through successfully, graduate, and move on to great things. However, if you see patterns beginning to form, you need to contact your school immediately to make sure you learn how you can help. If you do not have the skills to assist your children, ask for help. You can start by making sure they are well rested and ready for school every single day. Cut down on television time and encourage study or family time. Save the days off for summer time.

Our goal is to eliminate the drop out rate in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. With your help, we can make this happen. Let’s partner to make sure each one of our students is successful!

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Author info

Dick Cvitanich Dick Cvitanich is the Superintendent of Schools for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. He has been an educator for 33 years, and became superintendent for LPOSD in 2006. He was educated at the University of Washington where he earned a BA in History and a Superintendent's Credential. He has been married to Diane for 32 years and they have raised three sons who "taught us as much as we taught them." "I have a passion for public education and the role it plays in our democracy. In my free time I read, ski ... come to think of it, I don't have that much free time."

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