High school dropouts the focus of new program

Published 8:48 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Of the 551 members of the class of 2007 that entered the ninth grade in Chilton County’s public schools, just 436 — or 79 percent — entered the 12th grade, and even less received a diploma with their class.

That statistic was announced at a dropout prevention video-conference held at Chilton County High School Tuesday.

The video-conference, called Community Action: Linking Leaders (CALL), was conducted in the school’s distance learning lab and hosted by Dr. Robert Balfanz of the Center for Social Organization of Schools and John Hopkins University. CCHS was one of several locations around the state that joined in.

“We are going to target students in our community,” said Maplesville High School Principal Maggie Hicks, the meeting’s facilitator. “We are to come up with an action plan as to how we can help these students stay in school.”

More than 5,000 students left Alabama high schools in 2008 for numerous reasons, Alabama Deputy Assistant Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice said prior to introducing Balfanz. Balfanz pointed out four broad types of dropouts. The first group is affected by life events, such as work, marriage, children, or perhaps the need to care for an ill family member.

The second group is called “fade outs,” who convince themselves that they would be better served without a high school diploma.

Then there are the “push outs,” who may be seen as a detriment to the school. They are constantly truant and disruptive, despite numerous attempts to change their behavior. Balfanz indicated this group is rare.

Finally, there are those who simply fail to succeed. These students struggle for quite a while, but eventually their resilience fades, as does their attendance.

Most of those at Chilton County attributed local dropouts to life events. Many groups were represented at the meeting, including school administrators, educators, counselors, pastors, law enforcement, chamber of commerce, department of human resources, medical personnel and business owners.

“It takes all these for the students to understand that there’s more than just schools that can help them succeed in life,” Chilton Co. Schools Technology Coordinator Mary Clyde Huff said.