GRAFTON, Mass. – Superintendent of Schools James Cummings presented a plan Monday to lower the school district's student dropout number.
In the coming weeks, Cummings told the School Committee, he will meet with prior dropout students to discover where the school system came up short and to develop a mentoring and early warning program to identify and address warning signs as early as pre-Kindergarten.
“We need to develop a red flag response to a yellow flag need,” he said.
His initial focus will be at the high school level, though in time the program will focus on students as young as preschool where he said poor academic performance can begin.
According to 2011 statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Education, the current four year adjusted dropout rate for Grafton is 4.9 percent, much lower than the national average of over 7 percent. Cummings said in the years to come the goal is to reduce Grafton’s dropout rate to zero.
In his presentation, he said contributing at risk factors to poor student school performance includes demographic touch points like low income, minority status, and children with learning and emotional disability.
Grafton’s 2011 four year graduation rate study showed 18 percent of the student group was low income and 12.6 percent were minorities.
Cummings believes part of the problem is poor communication between teachers when a child moves from grade to grade and building to building, and the need for more training to identify an at risk student.
“One of the key elements in dropout prevention is to help the student build problem solving skills and deal with personal issues,” he said.
Future steps, he added, would include developing a mentoring program so a disengaged student will take more interest in school.