In May, 135 Moffat County High School students donned cap and gown and graduated. That number could have been higher, but four students dropped out.
MCHS Principal Thom Schnellinger said it’s a tragedy when any student drops out of high school. However, when considering numbers, statistics and trends, four dropouts is an improvement over previous years.
“We’ve reduced the dropout rate from year to year, for sure,” Schnellinger said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Schnellinger was speaking of dropout numbers and graduation rates for the past five years.
The year before, 2009-10, there were seven dropouts. There were 14 in 2008-09.
Those numbers are complicated by being part of larger classes. Still, Schnellinger said this year’s lower number is worth noting.
“It appears to me … in just the raw numbers, we have fewer dropouts, and I hope it continues in that trend,” he said.
Numbers for this year’s senior class also include:
• Two students who transferred out of the district.
• One student who earned a GED in lieu of graduation.
• Three homeschooled students.
• Five students who did not complete school, but will return.
• Two transitional students (special needs) that will need additional years to graduate.
As far as assigning a percentage to this year’s graduation rate, Schnellinger said it’s not yet available.
“The state determines that,” he said of graduation rates. “I’m really reluctant to put my pencil and paper to it because there are lots of considerations that go into the formula.
“I would say definitely in August we would get those numbers.”
Graduation rates for previous years, starting with 2009-10, are 83.8 percent, 81.1 percent, 84.6 percent and 86.4 percent.
Schnellinger said despite the lower number of dropouts, this year’s graduation rate might be lower than previous years due to smaller enrollment.
“I will caution the public and the readers that our low (student body numbers) pull our percentages rapidly,” he said. “So, if we have two kids that drop out in a school year, it will pull our percentages way off.”
In the meantime, Schnellinger gives the MCHS Student Council credit for helping lower the number of dropouts.
In September 2010, the council rolled out an initiative called “Every Student Will Graduate.”
Throughout the school year, the phrase was repeated over the school’s PA system during morning announcements, and administrators included the phrase as part of their greeting when answering phones.
The slogan was also printed on a banner that was hung at MCHS.
“I think it certainly had an effect on the staff and how we think about things,” Schnellinger said of the initiative. “It was a very challenging goal that was set forth by our own students. It’s one of those things that we need to hit year in and year out. ‘This is the way we think about things. This is the way we see things here in Moffat County, that all students will graduate.’”
Student council president Becca Pugh said she thinks the initiative is responsible for lowering the dropout numbers.
“I do,” she said. “It’s all about positive attitudes. I think ‘everyone will graduate’ was a positive message. I think it had a huge impact.”
Next year, the program will grow in scope, she said. The student council will organize a group of volunteer student tutors who will assist other students who are struggling academically.
Schnellinger said the goal of eliminating dropouts is achievable.
“We’re a small county,” he said. “We know each other. This is possible.”
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