Missouri’s school dropout rate has hit its highest level in at least five years. The state education department says 4.2 percent of the high school students who started classes in the Fall of 2007 were not around at the end of classes last Spring. That’s up half a percentage point in the last year, almost a full point since 2004.
Percentages have a tendency to make such things abstract. The human side of the story is that about 12,000 Missouri high school students did not make it to the end of the most recent school year.
Deputy Commissioner of Education Bert Schulte says the state education department doesn’t know what happens to those who drop out, although local school districts might keep track of many of them and some will return.
The department is using a new system to calculate the dropout rate. Schulte says it’s more accurate because each student in Missouri has an identification number that stays with them when they transfer from one school to another. If a student leaves one district and does not enroll in another, the tracking number indicates the student has dropped out.
Some districts show a zero dropout rate. But the rate in Kansas City last year hit 28 percent…and the dropout rate in the state’s largest district, St. Louis, hit 22 percent. One school in that district reported 42 percent of its students did not make it to the end of the year.
The department has another measurement–graduation rates. For several years, the department’s numbers have indicated about one-fourth of high school freshmen don’t make it to graduation.