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Local Dropout Rates Below State Average
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The state’s high school dropout figures increased in the past academic year according to figures released by the California Department of Education, but the school districts in Riverbank and Oakdale remain below the 21.7 percent state average.

Oakdale’s dropout rate rose from 6.7 percent the previous year to 10.1 percent and Riverbank’s rate dropped 3.5 percent to 19.7 percent. The dropout rate for Stanislaus County school districts was 23.5 percent, up from 22.8 percent.

“We’re rather proud that our rate is so low,” said Oakdale Joint Unified School Superintendent Fred Rich of that district’s number.

Rich believes that part of the reason the Oakdale rate was low was because of district programs offered for students facing difficulties. He cited a home charter program, an involved staff at the continuation high school, and an independent study program outside of the county office of education to get Oakdale students to successfully graduate.

Rich also credited Assistant Superintendent Barbara Shook with working with the school principals and counselors to identify struggling students and assist them toward graduation requirements.

“I don’t think a lot of districts who have students failing offer these programs,” Rich said. “Any student wanting to graduate has numerous opportunities through assistance and alternative programs.”

Rich said the rise in the dropout percentage may be in the differences in reporting the figures compared to previous academic year. The system now requires a report of re-enrollment. Without the report from another school or district, the student shows as dropping out. Rich said this sometimes becomes difficult when a student moves to another state.

“Now we have to have verification regardless of our belief of where the student went,” he said.

Riverbank School Superintendent Ken Geisick listed several reasons he feels his district’s dropout rate fell, citing that there are early intervention programs offered to struggling students. Support classes are available and the district is improving instruction by committing to individual student needs. He also said the continuation school, Adelante High School, is in its fourth year of its program and is now seeing benefits.

“That kind of climate makes a difference to get students going to school every day,” said Geisick.

He also said the district is studying the possibility of some online coursework for students who have fallen behind to build up credits.

“Even though our rate dropped,” said Geisick, “19 percent is still just too high.”

Geisick, however, was questioning the numbers released by the state and said the district was still “working on the reporting glitches.”

The dropout rate calculations posted by the California Department of Education compare the counts of dropouts over the entire school year. The four-year derived dropout rate is an estimate of the percent of students who would drop out in a four-year period based on data collected for a single year.

California’s 3.8 million high school dropouts cost state taxpayers more than $1 billion in Medicaid payments and another almost $1 billion in lost tax revenue due to the lack of a quality education, according to a new study by the Foundation for Educational Choice.

The study also found that California’s high school dropouts earn $14,226 less a year than those who graduate high school, totaling about $412,000 over each of their lifetimes. Dropouts have higher rates of incarceration, addiction and receiving government assistance. Almost half are enrolled in Medicaid, according to the study.