The Transylvania Times -

School Dropout Rate Hits An All-Time Low


March 22, 2018

The dropout rate for Transylvania County Schools hit 0.7 percent last year, an all-time low for the county and one of the lowest in the state for the 2016-17 school year.

A dropout is defined by the state of North Carolina as “any student who leaves school for any reason before graduation or completion of a program of studies without transferring to another elementary or secondary school.”

“It’s exceptional. It’s unbelievable really, the low numbers,” said board member Betty Scruggs McGaha. “It’s great news, and I hope it will be celebrated in our community.”

“This is certainly good news,” agreed Dr. Jeremy Gibbs, chief academic officer for Transylvania County Schools who presented the dropout report to the Transylvania County Board of Education Monday evening.

The school system has seen a three-year trend of fewer dropouts. In 2013-14, dropouts reached a high of 41 students. The following year the number decreased to 38. In 2015-16 the number dropped to 22 students.

Last year it dropped to eight students.

Gibbs reported that the level of education correlates directly with pay and employment. He said students with a higher level of education not only earn more money but also have a greater chance of being employed while those with less education not only make less money but also have a more difficult time finding a job.

According to statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau for North Carolina in 2015, those who did not graduate from high school had an average salary of $20,400 a year while those with a high school diploma or its equivalent had an average salary of $26,600 a year.

The average for those with an associate’s degree was $31,100; for those with a bachelor’s degree, $46,200; and for those with a graduate or professional degree, $59,200.

Unemployment figures correlated inversely to one’s level of education.

In North Carolina in 2015, the unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma was 10.2 percent.

The unemployment rate for those with a high school diploma was 7.4 percent and for those with an associate’s degree the unemployment rate was 5.7 percent.

The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s and graduate or professional degree was 2.7 percent.

Gibbs reiterated that the number of jobs requiring a post-secondary education continues to increase.

Georgetown University has projected that in two years, 67 percent of the jobs in this state will require some post-secondary education.

Gibbs said the low dropout rate is a testament to school staff, students and parents and the several techniques being implemented in the schools.

Those techniques include personalized learning, flexible schedules, a variety of course offerings and career-technical education pathways, close monitoring of student attendance, and effective counseling and student services.

Gibbs said the school system has been emphasizing attendance because students cannot learn the skills they need if they are not in the classroom.

To achieve that end, staff at all school levels check to see why students are not in school on a given day.

Gibbs also credited all school staff for working together to meet a variety of student needs, including physical, emotional and social.

He said some residents of this community have no idea what challenges outside of academics that some students face.

The Adult High School, a program that has been developed in cooperation with Blue Ridge Community College, also has contributed to the lower dropout rate.

Gibbs said students in the Adult High School program still have to earn enough credits to receive a high school diploma. Even though the students are at the BRCC campus, if they do not receive their diploma, then they are included in the high school’s dropout rate.

There are currently 19 students in the Adult High School.

“That .7 number may have a rebound,” said Gibbs, adding that next year’s dropout rate could increase if some students dropout of the Adult High School.

However, he said that he was just warning the board about a possibility, but that the Adult High School is working well.

“We’re still way better off than we were,” said Gibbs.

McGaha said the county’s small schools have helped contribute to the lower dropout rate because it is easier for staff to establish relations with students and keep track of them. She said if someone is staying at home, the student knows that someone from the school will be knocking on the door.

Board member Alice Wellborn said it’s important that the schools make sure students in the lowest grades are attending school on a regular basis because what they learn or do not learn in elementary school affects their future education.

“Nothing good happens in high school that didn't start in kindergarten,” said Wellborn.

Board member Marty Griffin said he is often asked how the local public schools are doing, and his reply is that they are doing well.

“All you have to do is look at the graduation rate,” said Griffin.

Gibbs added that personnel from the federal government and state Department of Instruction were in the county visiting the schools recently and praised the school system for many of its programs and efforts, such as those that reduce the dropout rate.

He said they also praised the school system for its efficient use of money.

Gibbs said those visitors said, “We are getting tremendous bang for our buck in Transylvania County.”


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