Blair's dropout rate has been steadily increasing for the past decade, despite a decrease in Maryland's overall dropout rate, according to the 2009 Maryland Report Card. The Report Card which records state, county and individual school statistics regarding standardized tests and graduation.
According to the Report Card, Blair's dropout rate for grades 9-12 went from 0.62 percent of students dropping out in 2000 to 3.54 percent of students in 2009.
Guidance resource counselor Marcia Johnson said that the dropout rate includes all students who either stop coming after a specified number of days or formally withdraw, via a form, from the school system without transferring to another school. If the administration is able to reach a parent and get confirmation in writing, the administrator may fill out the withdrawal form for the student, Johnson said, but without any response from the family, is declared a dropout.
Although Blair's dropout rate has increased almost every year since 2000, Johnson said there is no single cause for the upward trend.
Bronda Mills, MCPS community superintendent for Blair, also said that she does not know of an exact reason, but that she and other MCPS staff can use the data to perform a "root cause analysis," or study of the why behind trends. "It's a real call to action. We have to do more. I take responsibility for that dropout rate," she said. Increasing dropout rates provide the impetus, Mills said, for her and other staff to continue getting to know the students at each school and look at why they might be dropping out, whether it is work, lack of interest or boredom.
She said that one demographic group that has a difficult time staying in school is recently immigrated students. Limited English Proficient students may need more time to graduate because they need to keep up with their classes as well as need to learn to communicate in a new language. "For students where English is not their first language, that can provide any number of challenges," she said.
Mills also said that impoverished students may have to leave school because of their home situation. "If we have students whose families are economically challenged, sometimes they have to go to work to support their families," she said.
To reverse the negative trend, Mills said she suggests providing outlets for students to pursue their passions and a community of staff who know students personally. "By the very nature of the way we approach a student in school, we can make them feel good or bad," she said. "Every student ought to know that he or she is known and respected [by the faculty]."
Kate Harrison, MCPS director of public information, said that the groups that struggle most with dropouts tend to be minority students. The dropout rate of black and Latino students at Blair has also been in an upward trend since 2000, according to the Report Card, and the dropout rates of both demographic groups are not only higher than that of white students, but of the average Blair rate. On the report card, it says that the 2009 dropout rate for white students is 1.51 percent, compared to Latino students' 5.97 percent and black students' 4.63 percent.
Harrison said that there is also no single reason for those disparities, but echoed Mills' idea of knowing a student by name and face. "We try to personalize education and have school-based staff aware of needs and talents," she said.
According to William Reinhard, spokesperson for the Maryland State Department of Education, the overall dropout rate for Maryland students in grades 9-12 has been slowly decreasing since as far back as 1993, in contrast to the Blair rate.
Reinhard said he attributes the decrease to increasing family involvement in many school districts, but realizes that not every county has the necessary resources. "It does take a substantial amount of effort for local school systems to do something similar," he said.
Reinhard also said that in this economy, families are starting to realize that high school diplomas and even higher degrees are necessary for competing in the job market, which may make them more receptive to county efforts.
Rebecca Guterman. Rebecca Guterman loves being on Silver Chips! In what little spare time she has left over, she loves to play the piano, dance really badly, and listen to music. Above all, seeing and talking to friends 24/7 is a must. Even though most of her ... More »