Rockford High Schools "Dropout Factories"?

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

A new report by Johns Hopkins University looks at 17-hundred high schools across the country over three years. It tallies the school's freshmen and compares that to how many seniors enroll there three years later. Those that have 60 percent or fewer seniors than freshmen are labeled "dropout factories."

According to the study, Rockford's Auburn and East High Schools have a 45 percent retention rate. Jefferson comes in at 53 percent. But school leaders question the report because it does not track individual students.

"There are a lot of reasons why people come as freshmen and then are not there in their senior year. Now do we have dropouts? Certainly and we lose too many," says Earl Hernandez, Chief Operating Officer of East High School.

Administrators prefer to rely on state graduation rate reports that account for issues like transfers. By that standard, Rockford had an average 75 percent graduation rate last year, climbing from 69.4 percent in 2004. What troubles many district leaders most is the disparity between racial groups. District-wide white students graduate on average ten percent more often than hispanics and african americans.

To get all students from start to finish, each high school now has a freshman foundation. That includes smaller classes for freshmen, extra help for kids that are on the cusp of passing and more extracurricular involvement.

"If you can get them to get through their freshman year, their odds of graduating with their grade-level peers goes up astronomically," says Assistant Superintendent Thomsas Schmitt.

Anti-truancy efforts are another key component of district efforts to improve graduation rates and right now many Rockford students are seeing success in their own hands. "I know I'm going to go far in life and I think if people made better decisions then they could too," East High School freshman Jennifer Dana.

The Hopkins study identifies 55 Illinois schools as dropout factories. They're mostly in urban and low-socioeconomic areas. But East's Chief Operating Officer says his school is turning around. He says school attendance zones are another big asset because they help staff target instruction to students in advance.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by LaTasha Location: Loves Park on Oct 31, 2007 at 01:23 PM
    I have friends in rockoford schools and all of them is going to graduate and college after, but what would happen if some students all in the high scools and they had droped out but they came back, would still be allowed to graduate even they had came back to school????
  • by Vickie Location: Rockford on Oct 31, 2007 at 02:42 AM
    Children do not need labeling what they need is teachers who are willing to teach and parents who are proactive in the process. We are going to see more dropouts if we do not track these children prior to high school, I can tell you from what I am seeing from my grandchildren in Middle school if the parents do not get involve and demand that the environment is of such where a child can learn, and get the teachers back to teaching as oppose to just dealing with disruptive children in the class room, we need more willing participants who really care about children and education to mentor children, tutor them to help them to remain in school and graduate high school and then go on to college.
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