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Schools boast state’s lowest drop-out rate

(2/15) For the third year in a row, Frederick County Public Schools has achieved the lowest school dropout rate in Maryland. With the state “satisfactory” standard set at 3%, in 2004-2006 less than 1% of Frederick County students dropped out of school. Statistics for FCPS show steady improvement since 1997.

At Catoctin High School, the figures are not quite as positive. Although the school meets the state standard, in 2006 CHS had the highest dropout rate in the county. Since 1997 its rate has fluctuated:

                   DROPOUT RATES 1997-2006

1997       2.82%                         1.81%
1998       2.39%                         1.57%
1999       2.66%                         3.03%
2000       2.67%                         2.27%
2001       2.79%                         3.76%
2002       1.73%                         1.56%
2003       1.29%                         .76%
2004       .73%                           1.55%
2005       .73%                           .75%
2006       .78%                           2.11%

These changes are not news to Curtis Howser, CHS guidance counselor. “We are perpetually fighting the fact that Catoctin historically has had one of the highest drop-out rates in the county … with meeting after meeting with students” having academic problems. Tutors are available for students having difficulties passing high school assessment tests. “We have an active drop-out prevention program in place [in FCPS and at CHS]…with alternatives for students, and we try to be flexible.”

Work-study offerings, internships, GED programs, and the Flexible Evening High School are open to students. Howser adds that “within the past two years we have had a ‘virtual school’” so that students can take classes online. Online courses include English 11 and 12 and American Studies 1 and 2, math, algebra, biology, and health.

“The main problem,” says Howser, “is reading. Our struggling students can’t read well.” CHS now has a reading specialist on staff, as do the elementary schools and Thurmont Middle School. “Our educators are putting in a lot of hard work” to keep students in school and to graduate.

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