The annual report that tracks the graduation and dropout rates for schools across the state was released by the State Board of Education on Thursday, and the report shows schools making gains in retaining students and handing out diplomas

The annual report that tracks the graduation and dropout rates for schools across the state was released by the State Board of Education on Thursday, and the report shows schools making gains in retaining students and handing out diplomas.

Delaware schools saw a marginal increase in the 2012-2013 school year over the previous year, with Kent County schools seeing an increase of their own.

The graduation rate is calculated by tracking a group of students, or a cohort, through all four years of high school and represents the portion of that cohort that graduates within four years. The statewide graduation rate rose from 79.6 percent to 79.9 percent.

Polytech had one of the highest graduation rates in the state in 2013, with 98.1 percent of its seniors graduating in May. Polytech’s graduation totals were up from 92.3 the previous year. The school’s dropout rate was also almost non-existent at 0.2 percent.

Polytech Principal Jason Peel attributes that success partially to school counselors who offer students one-on-one time that may be needed. He also chalks it up to Polytech’s unique model.

“Here at Polytech our students choose the focus of their studies by choosing a technical area,” Peel said. “When they have that focus, they have a real stake in seeing through their studies and graduating.”

Dover High School saw a large jump in its graduation rate during the last school year. The high school’s graduation numbers increased from a rate of 74.1 percent in 2011-2012 to 80.3 percent in 201-2013. Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas attributes these gains to new initiatives, such as increasing parent involvement, working to increase attendance, implementing credit recovery programs and allowing students to graduate after summer school.   

“The school has worked really hard at finding the root causes of why kids may not stay in school or may not be learning effectively and tried to implement interventions to mitigate the root causes so kids can learn successfully,” Thomas said.

Caesar Rodney High School also saw an increase in its graduation rate, which rose from 77.4 percent in the 2011-2012 school year to 82 percent in the 2012-2013 year.


Dover High School also lowered its dropout rate from 3.8 percent in 2011-2012 to 1.6 percent in 2012-2013 school year.

The dropout rate is calculated differently than the graduation rate, according to Alison May, spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Education. The dropout rate is calculated by taking the total enrollment for grades ninth through 12th at a school and dividing it by the number of students who dropped out. It is a snap shot of one year, unlike the graduation rate. The statewide dropout rate was 2.9 percent for the 2012-2013 school year, which represents a 1 percent decrease from the 2011-2012 school year’s 3.9 percent rate, May said.

Campus Community School saw an increase in its dropout rate, jumping from 2.9 percent in 2011-2012 to 26.7 percent in 2012-2013, which equates to roughly seven of the school’s 29 high school students being counted as dropouts.

Campus Community School has since dissolved its high school program and administrators present in during that school year could not be reached for comment.

Positive Outcomes Charter School also saw a significant increase in its dropout rate. The school had a 3.6 percent dropout rate for the 2011-2012 school year, rising to 14.9 percent in 2012-2013. Positive Outcomes’ Executive Director Edward Emmett said there the school found some discrepancies between the schools’ numbers and those of the Department of Education.  

“We had some issues with our dropout number,” Emmett said. “Within the count were five students that graduated in the summer and fall. We are working with the Department of Education to try and resolve that.”

Of the 80 students in grades nine to 12 enrolled at Positive Outcomes last school year, 13 were counted as dropouts, five of which were appealed, Emmett said. If Positive Outcomes’ dropout rate was adjusted for those students, it would stand around 10 percent.

The charter school has been working on lowering its dropout rate, said Principal Steve Norman.

“We have a post-secondary coordinator the works with each student on credit recovery and making sure they have plans in place for when they leave,” he said. “We are checking with students in ninth grade and working with them as they work though school, making sure they’re on a pace that enables them to be successful.”

The Caesar Rodney School District had a similar problem with its dropout rate, according to Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald. When the principal at Caesar Rodney High School received the school’s list of dropouts, the school challenged 26 of them, which the Department of Education granted. But when staff at Dover High School made the changes to the graduation report, they did not correct the dropout report, according to Fitzgerald.

“We share responsibly,” Fitzgerald said. “When we pointed it out to DOE they told us the report had already been completed and it was too late.”

Both the Caesar Rodney District and Positive Outcomes missed the deadline for appealing their dropout numbers, but both have since filed and appeals are being processed now, said May.

If all 26 Caesar Rodney students were to be removed as dropouts the new rate would be roughly 3.2 percent, according to Fitzgerald.

 “All in all with our graduation rate going up and our dropout rate going down slightly was due to a very strong effort on the part of the school staff and on division of curriculum and instruction to target certain students, making sure they get the support they need to stay in school and help them graduate,” Fitzgerald said.