The Clover school district, which will begin a new program for students in danger of dropping out, demonstrates how local school districts can develop innovative methods of improving the quality of education on their own.
Starting next fall, Clover students who aren't academically equipped to move up to the ninth grade will enter a grade 8.5 program that offers them help in making the transition to high school. The program is designed to get the students back on track so they eventually can keep up with their high school peers.
The district had identified 72 students with an average of 75 percent or below in math and language arts who will take part in the inaugural program. They will be tested to determine individual needs and then will receive accelerated training in math and reading tailored to their specific skill levels.
The students won't be given a choice to opt out of the program. As district officials noted, they are too old to go back to junior high and not ready to make the move to ninth grade.
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But they will be permitted to participate in regular high school extracurricular activities. They also will have the chance to take a test at the end of the first semester to see if they are ready for the ninth grade. If they are, they will be placed with other ninth-graders their age and move on to the 10th grade the following year.
District officials concede that some students might resent being placed in a class halfway between the eighth and ninth grades. But it beats the alternatives.
All too often, the alternative is dropping out of school altogether. One of the primary reasons for developing this program is the high dropout rate for ninth-graders.
That is a trend nationwide as well. More than a third of students who drop out of high school do it in their freshman year.
In Clover, concerns are high about the declining graduation rate. Last year, Clover schools had a 72.2 percent graduation rate, compared with the 77.9 percent rate for similar schools in the state. That also was a decline for Clover from a graduation rate of 83.4 percent in 2003.
Grade 8.5, we think, is a creative way to approach this problem. Students will be in small classes, getting the intensive instruction they need to catch up -- not to mention extra time to make the adjustment to high school.
We predict that, with the amount of individual attention the students will receive, the success rate will be high and that many students who might otherwise have dropped out will go on to graduate.
Congratulations to Clover officials for addressing this problem in a novel way. Other districts might want to monitor the program with an eye on adopting it themselves.
Clover has taken an innovative approach to helping students make transition to high school.
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