Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Three schools stand out in state

Each had no dropouts over last academic year

By Stephenie Steitzer, ssteitzer@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The only high school in one of Northern Kentucky's poorest cities had no students drop out in 2000-01.

        Another Northern Kentucky high school hasn't had a dropout in four years.

        A third area high school also had no dropouts, compared to the statewide 4.72 percent rate.

        Ludlow High School, Walton- Verona High School and Silver Grove High School were the only three of the 234 public high schools in Kentucky to have no students drop out, according to a report released by the state Monday.

        Ludlow High School, in a city with a poverty rate of 11 percent, is one of the smallest high schools in Kenton, Campbell and Boone counties with only 260 students.

        “It's a place where everybody knows your name,” Barbara Martin, curriculum director at Ludlow Independent District, said. “And I think it's harder for kids to fall through the cracks.”

        Silver Grove is even smaller with 123 students, and Walton-Verona, in fast-growing Boone County, has 500.

        At Walton-Verona, no one has dropped out since 1996-1997.

        Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said smaller enrollment is a big factor in schools with the lowest dropout rates. She said the three Northern Kentucky schools are also doing other things to reduce the number of students who quit.

        Those steps could be implemented at larger schools, she said. “You can make your school interesting and engaging to your students whether you have 100 kids or 500 kids,” Ms. Gross said.

        One of the programs the Ludlow Independent School District uses to keep dropout rates down involves after-school tutoring for students in danger of failing a class.

        Ms. Martin said the district receives about $40,000 a year to help failing students in elementary, middle and high schools.

        All districts in Kentucky receive the money, but she believes Ludlow uses it to best advantage.

        Ms. Martin also said the school carefully monitors the absentee list and calls parents to find out why their children are absent.

        If they miss more than three days of school, a truancy officer and youth advocate will visit the student's home.

        “I think the idea is the size of the school, knowing our kids as people one-on-one and being proactive about attendance,” Ms. Martin said.

        Ludlow's high poverty rate doesn't stand in the way of the school's success with a low dropout rate.

        The river town of 4,400 is one of the poorest communities in Northern Kentucky. Its 11 percent poverty rate compares to a Kenton County rate of 9 percent and a rate in Lakeside Park of 1.2 percent.

        “It just proves the point that it doesn't matter what your economic situation is,” Ms. Gross said. “While it is an issue, it does not mark you for negative numbers.”

        The Northern Kentucky region, defined by the state department of education as the 14 counties from Campbell to Bullitt County, had the lowest dropout rate in the state, 2.92.

        The dropout rates, along with attendance, rates at which students repeat grades and graduation rates are added to student test scores to track a school's progress in a two-year period.

        Those numbers are then compared and schools that have made improvements and maintained good levels receive state money as a reward.


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