Beaufort News

Beaufort County high school dropout rate increases in 2009-10

Fewer students dropped out of state public high schools in 2010 than the previous year, but Beaufort County's dropout rate increased almost 1 percentage point, according to a report Thursday from the S.C. Department of Education.

During the 2009-'10 school year, 97 of the county's 5,674 public high school students dropped out compared to 49 of 5,496 students in 2008-'09, according to the report.

No one specific factor led to the increase, said Sean Alford, the school district's instructional services chief.

"In '08-'09, we just did a phenomenal job in locating folks and getting kids squared away and moved on to better things," Alford said. "We've known this (2009-'10) data for a while. ... Over this past spring, we looked to put a number of things in place to proactively address it."

The school district has designed two new alternative-education programs to help students who have the "typical profile of a dropout," Alford said.

The Springboard program will work with eighth-graders who are over-age for their grade because they have been held back. Students can earn enough high school credits during a year in alternative education and rejoin their class as sophomores and graduate on time, district officials have said.

Forty-five eighth-graders are expected to participate in Springboard next school year, Alford said.

A second program, Connections, will target students 17 and older who "have not been able to find success in the ordinary high school setting," Alford said. Teachers and counselors in an alternative-school setting will help them map paths toward college or careers, he said.

Statewide, 800 fewer students dropped out of high school in 2009-'10 than the previous year, according to the state Education Department. The decrease during 2009-'10 was the second consecutive year of improvement.

Since 2007-'08, the state's total number of dropouts has decreased from 8,032 to 6,265 -- a 22 percent improvement, the release said.

Jasper County high-school dropouts increased less than 1 percentage point -- 19 in 2009-'10 compared to 13 in 2008-'09.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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