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Drop-out rates on the rise in Iowa City

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | SEPTEMBER 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa City School Board officials say an increased dropout rate is due to better data collection with help from state officials.

The board members discussed the 2009 to 2010 comprehensive study on schools’ safety and climate during a meeting Monday night.

The report stated the dropout rates have more than doubled, rising from 1.54 percent between 2008 and 2009 to 3.8 percent from 2009 to 2010.

Though the increase is alarming, board members said it is the result of holes in the previous system.

Superintendent Stephen Murley says it comes down to one question: “Are there more dropouts, or are we just better at tracking our kids?”

School District Assistant Superintendent Ann Feldman said the changes in data collection came from more state involvement.

“The state collecting the data is making the data more accurate,” she said.

Now, state officials follow up with students who say they are transferring, she said.

According to the report, 137 students dropped out during the 2010 to 2011 school year.

Ethnic issues are also highlighted in the report.

Roughly, 31 percent were African American, 15 percent Latino, and 52 percent non-Latino white.

“It’s great to have more precise measurement tools, but they only illustrate the challenges we face as a district with the racial and ethnic disparities within school suspensions and dropout rates,” board member Sarah Swisher said.

The report also indicated 46 percent of the $7.7 million annual funding go toward dropout-prevention programs.

Also included in the report were findings from an Iowa Youth Survey getting student input on personal values and safety at school.

Roughly 89 percent of School District students said they have not “skipped or cut classes or school days,” and 98 percent feel safe going to school everyday.

Murley said the survey results were a success he attributes to the district’s student services, including the Positive Behavior Intervention Support program.

The program is a state-level initiative that rewards students with positive behaviors instead of spunishing bad behaviors.

“We’re making progress,” Murley said. “We are starting to see far fewer disruptive behaviors.”


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