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Dropout rate average’ with 128 in public schools

(11/25/03)About 60 students dropped out of each of the two public high schools during the last school year, contributing to a state rate that’s average for the nation.

Of the 45 states that participate in the survey, Mississippi ranked 20th in students leaving high school without graduating.

The figures are from the National Center for Education Statistics, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, and covered the 2000-01 school year.

Vicksburg Warren School District figures from the 2002-2003 school year show 68 students dropped out of Warren Central High School and 60 dropped out of Vicksburg High School.

Dropout records for previous years are not available, school officials said.

Carla Smythe, a guidance counselor at Warren Central, said the top two reasons students may drop out are age and a personal decision not to continue attending classes.

She said older students in schools tend to drop out although they may be close to earning a diploma. “They are older than their peers and don’t want to be here,” Smythe said. Older students can finish in a General Education Degree program if they choose.

While most students are about 18 when they graduate, state and federal laws allow students to attend until 21. Because of crimes involving 20-year-old students as the current school year began, local delegates to the Legislature have said they plan to address the issue in the upcoming session.

Another reason students drop out, Smythe said, is simply to make a choice of their own.

“Others just don’t like the discipline of high school,” she said. “They may be only 16, but they think they’re ready to be on their own.”

“They may be capable of passing their classes, but they’re choosing not to, and those are the really frustrating cases.”

Smythe attended the Mississippi Counseling Association convention in the beginning of November, where tips to prevent dropouts were offered.

She said the convention was a good opportunity to look at programs other schools were using to combat dropouts.

“I think both schools are lucky in that we both have administrators who are willing to look at finding good ideas that work and who are willing to make those changes if need be,” Smythe said.

The study showed the state’s dropout rate is 4.6 percent. That rate has steadily declined since 1994, when it was 6.4 percent.