Area schools see progress in dropout rates

Nashua kept its dropout rate below the state average last year, according to data released this week, while Hudson and Litchfield saw their rates come in higher than average.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Education released dropout statistics for the 2007-08 school year.

Statewide, the four-year average dropout rate was 11.3 percent.

That is an improvement from 2001-2002, when the four-year average rate was 15.1 percent. According to the state, the improved rate means 600 more students remained in school and graduated.

These figures include students who leave school but get their GED or leave for college early, as well as those who do not continue their education.

Locally, Nashua continued to see its dropout numbers decline.

In 2005, for example, the city had 206 students drop out of the two high schools. Last year, that figure had been reduced to 89 students, a four-year cumulative rate of 8.1 percent.

Nashua Superintendent Christopher Hottel attributed the steady decline to a number of initiatives the district has put in place to reduce the dropout rate.

“There’s been more of a focus on an alternative way to stay in school,” he said.

The district offers classes after school and at night for students who want to continue on a path toward a high school diploma outside of the regular high school setting.

Dropout Rates

In January of last year, Nashua was awarded a $421,343 dropout prevention grant from the state, money that was used to fund two full-time counselors who work with students to help them graduate on time.

The rest of the money was used to pay stipends to teachers teaching courses outside of the regular school day to help students earn additional credits.

Nashua North had 37 students drop out, and Nashua South had 40 drop out.

In Hudson, there were 49 dropouts reported last year, for a four-year cumulative rate of 12.3 percent.

“Obviously, we want to bring the number down,” said Randy Bell, superintendent in Hudson.

Bell points out that Hudson did make progress over the previous year’s numbers. In 2007, Hudson had 65 dropouts, for a 4.1 percent dropout rate and a 15.4 percent four-year cumulative rate.

Bell said the district continues to work on ways to reduce dropouts, primarily by focusing on students as they are entering the ninth grade and keeping them in school.

“If they’re at the end of the ninth grade and they are real short on credits and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s real hard,” he said.

The district has focused on creating a stronger transition from eighth grade to ninth grade, providing summer school to address academic issues before they start high school.

The district is also looking at how to incorporate online courses and adult education programs.

Bell said he has spoken with Londonderry about a partnership in which their students would have access to Hudson’s vocational programs and, in exchange, Hudson students could attend Londonderry’s adult education programs.

The state also announced that it is changing the terminology it has used in the past to define dropouts to differentiate between those that quit school and those who continue their education in another form.

Instead of the term “dropout,” the state is now referring to any student who leaves school early without a diploma or certificate as an “early exit non-graduate.”

In the past, students who left school but pursued their GED or left to attend college early were considered dropouts. The term “dropouts” now refers to students who do not immediately continue their education.

Of last year’s 1,986 “early exit non-graduates,” 253 soon earned a GED and 51 enrolled in colleges. The state said improved data collections has allowed for more tracking of students once they drop out.

Taking out students who earn a GED and leave for college early, the statewide, four-year cumulative dropout rate is 9.7 percent.

Among local school districts, Campbell High School in Litchfield also had a dropout rate higher than the state average. Last year, 20 students dropped out, for a 13 percent four-year cumulative rate.

However, 9 of those 20 students earned a GED.

Statewide, male students have a higher rate of dropping out, with 13 percent failing to finish high school, compared to 11 percent among females.

The dropout rate for white students is 11 percent. For black and Hispanic students, it is 19 percent.

Grafton County has the lowest dropout rate, at 8 percent. Sullivan County is highest, with 17 percent. In July, a law increasing the minimum dropout age from 16 to 18 will go into effect. That mandate will include any students who drop out before July but are not yet 18.

DROPOUT RATE for area schools
Number who
dropped out % leaving
SCHOOL ENROLLED  07-08 (4-year average)*
Nashua North
Nashua South
Nashua Total
* Includes dropouts, those getting GEDs and those entering college early
Source: New Hampshire Department of Education