Percent of high school dropouts jumps in U46
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org October 16, 2012 6:44PM
U46 high school dropout rate
3.2 percent in 2008
3.0 percent in 2009
2.6 percent in 2010
2.3 percent in 2011
3.1 percent in 2012
SOURCE: Elgin School District U46
Updated: November 18, 2012 7:05AM
ELGIN — The number of dropouts in School District U46 suddenly jumped back to near-2008 levels this school year, and nobody in the district really is sure why.
This year, 3.1 percent of high school students did not return to school in the second-largest school district in Illinois, according to U46 Chief of Staff Tony Sanders.
That number had been decreasing every year since 2008, when it was 3.2 percent, Sanders said. And internally, he said, the district is uncertain why it bounced back up.
“I think it’s going to vary from family to family and student to student,” he said.
That was part of an update on the district’s progress toward meeting the benchmarks it has set in its five-year accountability plan, Destination 2015, that Sanders gave to the U46 Board of Education Monday at its regular meeting.
Last year, the dropout rate in the Elgin-based district had fallen to 2.3 percent, according to his presentation.
That was below the state average, which was 2.7 percent in 2011, according to Illinois Interactive Report Card data. That is the most recent number available from the state.
And it was on its way to meet the target U46 set in Destination 2015. The district has targeted a 1 percent dropout rate by 2015, according to that plan.
Sanders said the state has not made any changes to the way it calculates the dropout rate. And, he said, he didn’t think changes to transportation last year would have a direct impact on students’ decisions to drop out: While high school students now are picked up by buses at elementary and middle schools, rather than in their neighborhoods, they still are not required to walk farther than 1.5 miles. That’s the same distance elementary and middle school students must walk before they receive transportation, by state law.
When Superintendent Jose Torres came to U46 five years ago, he sent letters urging students who had dropped out to return to school. That brought back 46 students that year, according to the chief of staff.
Torres had continued those letters every year, he said. And this year, the school board has authorized hiring two new social workers to work with schools that have the highest dropout rates and lowest attendance in the district, he said.
“Our dropout rate back in 2008 was 3.2, so overall were still lower than where we were five years ago. That progress we were making toward lowering that dropout rate — it doesn’t help,” Sanders said.
Meantime, attendance has held steady in U46 schools around 94 percent since 2008, according to the Destination 2015 update. The district has targeted 98 percent attendance by 2015.