Dropout rate low here compared to state

KINGMAN – Schools in Kingman appear to be doing above average on graduating high school students and reducing dropout rates, but any statistics are relative to the reporting system used for tracking such figures.

A study appearing in the annual Kids Count Data Book by the Annie E.

Casey Foundation in Baltimore was released last week.

It states that based on 2001 Census data, Arizona's dropout rate is 16 percent, highest in the nation and nearly double the 9 percent national average.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said Wednesday that most studies on dropouts, including the Casey Foundation study, are inconsistent in the manner in which data is collected.

"I've collected a repertoire of jokes about statisticians," Horne said.

"For example, there's one statistician who had her head in the oven, her feet in the refrigerator and said on average she felt comfortable."

The annual dropout study for 2002-2003 done by the Arizona Department of Education indicates the dropout rate was 6 percent at Kingman High School North, 5.4 percent at KHS South and 12.1 percent at Mount Tipton School in Dolan Springs, which offers high school instruction.

The overall rate for the Kingman Unified School District was 6.1 percent, with 1.9 percent of students holding a "status unknown" rate.

Status unknown means those students have not sought transcripts of their records necessary for applying to other schools.

"The department (of education) keeps changing what they're looking for in dropout information, so it doesn't give us a baseline from which to draw," KUSD Superintendent Mike Ford said.

"For years we decreased our dropout rate, and then they went to the four-year cohort.

That takes into account all freshmen entering high school and expected to graduate in four years, and they found out the numbers got skewered because it did not take into account summer graduates or those students who came back for a fifth year."

The fifth-year graduation rate at KHS North was 75 percent, Principal Pat Mickelson told Ford, which is above the 70 percent figure for the state for five-year cohorts.

For 2002-2003, the state showed KUSD having a total 2,406 students enrolled at the north and south campus high schools and Mount Tipton.

The department information indicates the Kingman Academy of Learning had 233 high school students during the 2002-2003 school year.

It did not give a dropout or status unknown rate.

Susan Chan, district administrator for KAL, said the figure is wrong.

"We had between 130 and 145 high school students that year and none dropped out," she said.

The KAL had 200 high school students this past year with three falling into the dropout category, she said.

"We're doing fairly well at handling potential dropouts," Chan said.

"We have good communication with parents and try to alleviate any problem before it starts.

We meet with parents, students and teachers to find out why a student is not making it."

The KAL has added one high school grade level each of the past three years and will have a senior class next school year.

Chan said she expects the senior class to have 43 students and hopes all starting the year will graduate next spring.

Dropout numbers for the KUSD for the 2003-2004 school year are not yet available.

Ford said the district's Positive Alternatives for Student Success (PASS) program has helped the graduation rate.

He said 81 of 430 graduates this past year came out of PASS.

"It's a pretty good indication we're putting programs in place for what I call non-traditional students," Ford said.

"It's a drop-in for those students who for various reasons have extenuating circumstances and were not successful in the traditional classroom environment."

Ford added that the addition of all-day kindergarten in his district is another investment that puts children ahead of the learning curve, although results of it will not be seen for 12 years.

The state Department of Education study also reported that Eagle Academy in Golden Valley had 81 high school students enrolled during 2002-2003 with a 13.6 percent dropout rate.

A call placed to Eagle seeking comment was not returned.

Horne said much of the problem in studies is that everyone's definition of dropout rates differs, so it becomes difficult to judge when you're not "comparing apples to apples."

"Those studies that are consistent show Arizona is above the national average in graduation rates, and I've undertaken a major new effort to further reduce the dropout rate," he said.

"I created a position called the Stay in School Program Specialist and hired her in February.

Her job is to study best practices in dropout prevention so we can get the information to schools."

"Those programs fall into the categories of peer counseling, outside mentoring, flexible hours, and career and technical education.

I expect results in August."