The number of South Carolina students dropping out of high school declined for the fourth straight year in 2011-12, while Beaufort County public schools' numbers have risen, state and local education officials reported Wednesday.
Beaufort County public schools saw a rise of 21 dropouts between 2007 and 2012, according to a school district news release.
The district's dropout numbers rose from 113 students in the 2007-08 school year to 134 in 2011-12, the release said.
Statewide, more than 5,200 ninth- through 12th-graders dropped out in 2011-12, representing 2.5 percent. That's about 670 fewer students than a year earlier and 2,800 fewer than in 2007-08, according to the S.C. Department of Education.
Beaufort County's dropout rate matched the state's 2.5 percent rate for 2011-12, the district release said. Twelve more students dropped out between the 2010-11 school year and 2011-12.
The dropout rate reflects how many teens officially withdrew over a federal fiscal year or became too old to return. Students can legally drop out at age 17 and cannot stay in school past age 21.
Beaufort County superintendent Jeffrey Moss said in the release the district would work to lower the dropout rate.
"If we do a better job from kindergarten all the way through high school, then I'm confident that we'll see fewer dropouts," he said.
He proposes an increased focus on digital learning and digital instruction to provide a more customized education for every student, the release said. He also proposes more effective ways to identify and assist students who are struggling in school, and "enhanced career and technology education that provides a path to two-year technical college and good-paying jobs for students who aren't interested in a four-year degree."