Only 23 high school students dropped out from Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools during the 2012-2013 school year—a record low for the district, according to school officials.
For the same school year, data released last week by the state Department of Public Instruction stated that CHCCS also had the lowest rate of high school drop-outs among North Carolina public school systems.
There was an almost 40 percent reduction from 2011-2012 when 38 students dropped out.
District leaders attribute this success in part to several programs that help to keep students engaged in their studies, while also providing the special attention they need.
State House Representative Graig Meyer, who serves as the district’s Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services, said that drop-out prevention begins when students first enroll in elementary school and continues through the transition to middle school and then to high school.
“If kids stay on that track of being able to progress through school, even if they hit some struggles in high school, it is still easier to keep them in. They don’t feel like they are too far behind to ever catch up,” Meyer said.
Since it’s inception in 1995, the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate (BRMA) Program, a district-wide student achievement program, has helped to provide African-American and Latino students with the support they need to succeed in the classroom and elsewhere in life.
This program provides students with tutoring, social and cultural enrichment, in addition to college and career preparation.
Meyer has served as the coordinator for BRMA since 1998, though he will be stepping down this year. He said only two students who were active in the program have dropped out of high school. Of those who have completed the program, 100 percent have gone on to post-secondary education.
“The district has had a now 20-year commitment to racial equity. Those student populations who are the most likely to drop out—students of color, English language learners, even students in special education and other identified populations— those kids get extra attention in Chapel Hill Schools because we know that our schools can’t take a ‘one size fits all ‘ approach to students,” he said.
Phoenix Academy, which began as an alternative school program in 1998, has since transitioned to a free-standing high school, serving students who are most at-risk for dropping out. Meyer that explained it has grown from operating out of just one meeting room to a now four-classroom facility behind the Lincoln Center on S. Merritt Mill Rd.
“There are very few districts that have a program like Phoenix Academy High School where students can go and get a different type of small group environment and get all of their academic needs met,” Meyer said. “As soon as they walk in the door, [they] feel like, ‘Okay, I didn’t like being in the big school [environment], but this is a place where I can finish and don’t have to quit. I can graduate by being here.’”
Meyer said there are still areas where improvement can be made, such as re-engaging teenagers if they do drop-out, or helping them to find another pathway in continuing their education.