The Norman Transcript

April 9, 2013

Norman dropout rates skewed by issues with records

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Fewer kids in Norman are dropping out than numbers might indicate, according to Norman Public School officials’ discussions at a Monday night’s board meeting.

About half of Norman Public Schools reported dropouts in an academic year are likely the result of record-keeping issues, school officials said. The district’s 2011-2012 dropout numbers include transfers to other schools, said Holly Nevels, NPS director of secondary education.

Nevels provided insight on the difficulties of tracking students who leave Norman schools and how the time frame of filing reports on students is problematic.

“The numbers we report are so different because of missing information or pending verification of enrollment elsewhere,” Nevels said.

A major factor in this discrepancy, Nevels said, is the timing of students’ departures or failure of students’ families to follow up on last-minute changes.

“Dropouts are reported quarterly, and the fourth quarter is our re-entry report when we can find out whether a student returned to our district or is at a new school which is requesting records from us — our schools are very diligent about this,” Nevels said. “An interesting issue with this is that receiving schools who request records and confirm receipt of a student in October or November are past the re-entry report window, so the student will always be recorded as an NPS ‘dropout’ for that quarter or year.”

According to criteria set by the State Department of Education, a dropout can be:

· A private school or out-of-district student who transfers out of the district and fails to provide documentation of enrollment at a new school,

· A student who moves and fails to provide documentation of enrollment at an out-of-state school or

· Students in the process of completing GED coursework, among others.

Those who do not count as dropouts are:

· Students who fill out appropriate paperwork when withdrawing to homeschool,

· Students who complete GED coursework or

· Students homebound by extended illness.

“Since 2005-2006, dropouts have been an issue that the district focused on, and we’ve launched additional interventions to raise our ability to track why students leave, and they’re enormous. There are so many (reasons) why kids leave schools and why those schools can’t always track where they’ve gone,” Superintendent Joe Siano said. “The inconsistent methodology for tracking dropout rate has made it a challenge, and the district has instead focused on interventions and a proactive approach.”

Norman’s dropout numbers have seen a sharp decline since the inception of intervention methods, with the 2005-2006 number of 105 reported dropouts totaling more than twice the numbers of recent years.

According to Nevels’ report, 31 NPS students dropped out during 2011-12. The Norman dropouts reported, by school, are:

· Alcott Middle: 2

· Irving Middle: 5

· Longfellow Middle: zero

· Whittier Middle: 1

· Norman High: 13

· Norman North High: 10

Successful intervention methods include supplemental online coursework, parent and community liaisons, student mentors, concurrent enrollment and “wrap-around” services for students’ emotional and physical well-being, among others.

“The key to intervention strategies is knowing each students’ story. This is something I personally enacted as a principal, and it’s our mantra in developing and executing intervention strategies now,” Nevels said.



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