The Delaware Department of Education recently released their graduation and drop-out rate reports for 2013. According to the report, Milford School District’s graduation rate rose in 2012-13 compared to 2011-2012, as did their dropout rate. However, Milford’s dropout rate of 3.7 percent is higher than the state average of 2.9 percent and higher than surrounding districts. Lake Forest has a dropout rate of 2.2 percent and Cape Henlopen’s rate is 2.1 percent.
As for graduation rates, the state average is 79.9 percent, while Lake Forest has a graduation rate of 77.6 percent and Cape Henlopen 86.3 percent. Although the district has a higher graduation rate than the state average and one neighboring district, administrators say they continue to seek solutions for keeping students in school.
“We are working with our school counselors and teachers to provide support in identifying students that are at risk for dropping out before they graduate in order to encourage students to recognize the opportunities that are more available to individuals with high school diplomas,” said Travis Moorman, Director of Teaching and Learning with the district. “We have allocated funds and resources through projects like LEAD that provide mentors to at-risk students, and support after school to provide academic support to struggling students.” LEAD stands for “Leading with Excellence to Achieve Dramatically,” and is an after school enrichment program focused on leadership and academic skills for students in grade 10. Mr. Moorman explained that by working with school counselors as well as programs like LEAD, they are able to identify who at-risk students are and develop plans to get them back on track to promote graduation.
Mr. Moorman says there are many reasons for the higher dropout rates in Milford, and that they are unique to each student. He says that one of the most reported reasons is that students fall behind and feel as if they cannot catch up, while others face challenges in their personal lives that sometimes have them choosing full-time employment over education in order to provide financial assistance at home.
“While the reasons vary, we work hard to look closely at each student and help provide them support to remain positive about staying in school,” Mr. Moorman said. “There also tends to be a correlation between attendance and dropout rates. When students are not in school, they fall behind quickly, so much in some cases it becomes impossible to recover with their workload. We offer time and support for credit recovery during the year and during the summer, if funds are available.” Mr. Moorman says that the district uses internal measures to assist them in targeting students in need of additional support, but public school profiles are the only source of information they release regarding those statistics.
As for improving the dropout rate, Mr. Moorman says many of the strategies they are using to lower the dropout rate should have an impact on the graduation rate as well. He explained that the dropout rate and graduation rate are two different statistics, as a student who does not graduate with his or her class will lower the statistic, but they may not drop out of school. In some cases, the student graduates the following year or during the summer.
“Often a student does not graduate because they do not meet the credit minimums identified in board policy,” Mr. Moorman said. “We require a minimum of 25 credits to graduate high school, and identify those that students must have in specific content areas. One big challenge we face is that when students realize they most likely will not graduate with in four years, they, unfortunately, choose to drop out.”
Mr. Moorman said that, currently, Milford has not collaborated with Cape Henlpen, whose graduation rates rose from 72.5 percent in the 2009-10 school year to 86.3 in the 2012-13 school year, although they often do work with other districts on common student problems. He did say that working with other districts was something they would consider, however, in order to improve both the graduation and dropout rates.