Significantly fewer Beaufort County School District students dropped out of high school during 2016-17 compared to five years earlier, according to a report released this week by the South Carolina Department of Education.
Five-year trend data for the district showed a significant decrease in dropouts, from 213 students in 2012-13 to 98 in 2016-17. The lower dropout numbers were recorded even as overall student enrollment across the district increased.
Looking at a single-year data comparison from 2015-16 to 2016-17, 98 district students in grades 9-12 left high school and did not return, compared to 84 during the 2015-16 school year.
Looking at dropouts as a percentage of total enrollment in grades 9-12, Beaufort was at 1.5 percent in 2016-17 compared to 3.8 percent in 2012-13. Across the state, South Carolina’s overall dropout percentage was 2.4 percent in 2016-17 compared to 2.6 percent in 2012-13.
Although dropout rates are different from graduation rates, which track the percentage of students who complete high school and get a diploma “on time” in four years, Superintendent Jeff Moss said the two statistics are related.
“Our significantly reduced dropout rates over the past five years mirror our steadily improving high school graduation rates over the same period,” Moss said. “If we continue to do a good job from kindergarten all the way through high school, then we’ll continue to see fewer dropouts and higher graduation rates.”
The district’s 2017 high school graduation rate was 84.1 percent, a significant improvement from 75.3 percent five years earlier.
Among the local priorities Moss mentioned were:
- An increased focus on digital learning and digital instruction to provide a more customized educational experience for every student.
- More curriculum choices for parents to promote individualized learning.
- More effective ways to identify and assist students who are struggling in school and are at greater risk of dropping out.
- More effective early childhood education that prepares students for greater academic success as they move up through the grades.
- Enhanced career and technology education that provides a path to two-year technical college and good-paying jobs for students who aren’t interested in a four-year degree.
State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman expressed optimism that dropout rates will decline across South Carolina.
“Students who are engaged and see the relevance in what they are learning will show up to class on time and not drop out,” Spearman said. “I challenge our teachers, schools and districts to find students’ passions and offer them opportunities so that they can be successful. If we do this, our graduation rates will continue to climb and our dropout rate will get even lower.”