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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education heard a report Monday about the new efforts within the district to closely monitor those students who are getting behind on their credits and taking quick action to help them catch up.

Dr. Melani Mouse, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools, reported the dropout numbers to board members and explained the necessity of helping students get back on track early in their high school career rather than during their junior or senior year.

The numbers

The latest information on dropouts is from the 2019-2020 school year when the pandemic hit in March of the school year. The OKCPS dropout numbers were significantly higher than three other urban districts in that grade range:

  • OKCPS: 673 dropouts from 7,916 students grades 7-12
  • Putnam City: 150 dropouts from 5,353 students grades 7-12
  • Midwest City-Del City: 110 dropouts from 3,671 students grades 7-12
  • Tulsa: 445 dropouts from 8,473 students grades 7-12

(See the full chart in the slide deck below.)

The process

Mouse explained that the district gives names to the state Department of Education of who they know have dropped out and then later the state gives the list of names back so that the district can see if they are enrolled for the new year. If they were last enrolled with a school, they are on that school’s list.

She explained that their plan of action is for principals to go line by line and find out:

  • Where is this student?
  • Have they re-enrolled this year in another school?
  • If they have and we can prove that and we have a chance to mark them off the list and submit that correction to the State Department.

In response to a question from board member Gloria Torres, Mouse said that one of the biggest factors in students becoming dropouts is “being credit deficient.”

Mouse gave a set of actions that they are taking this year to identify students early who are falling behind and are more likely to lose credits.

  • “Each week, we are having principals, athletic directors, coaches, sponsors, look at the eligibility list, and see who’s on that F list.”
  • “If they do lose credit, we are trying to get them into credit recovery right up front.”
  • “Any freshmen at the end of the first semester should have three and a half credits at that point, if they’re on track. If they have three or less, we’re flagging them right now early, so we can get a plan for their credit recovery.”
  • “Three times a year, I will have given counselors and principals data on who’s not on track with their cohort.”
  • “And for the first time this year, we’re going to have students actually track where they are, the 10th 11th and 12th graders will look at that before fall break.”
  • Each week her office will give attendance reports to the schools so that they can identify what students are trending toward being chronically absent instead of waiting until they have ten abesences or more.
  • Attendance monitoring is important in identifying which students may be on their way to losing credit and “credit deficiencies.”

In response to more questions from Torres, Mouse said that they do have graduation coaches but only in the newcomer centers that focus on those students who have just entered the U.S.

Mouse continued that right now they are seeing how it works in those centers and then will assess the feasibility of expanding those positions to other schools.

Causes?

Board member Carrie Jacobs asked Mouse if she could provide deeper numbers that go back further than five years such as ten or 15 years.

Jacobs asked what some of the root causes might be to the dropout process. She also asked if the district ever gets any students back once they drop out.

“The key to getting students back is knowing what their barriers are,” answered Mouse. She explained that getting in contact with the students and finding out what is stopping them from returning to school is one of the keys to getting them back.

Mouse also gave ample credit to Dr. Marsha Herron, Chief of Equity and Student Support, and her team for being able to “find almost anybody” whose attendance is slipping and then finding out what that student needs to get back into school and on track.

“Pushouts”

Board member Ruth Veales asked specifically what is being done to address the problem of “pushouts,” a mostly informal but sometimes in the past upfront process of pushing students to drop out. Some principals would strongly encourage students to drop out if they were not making the grade and were on what the principal believed was a dead-end path in school.

“So, how do we differentiate the difference between a dropout and a pushout?” asked Veales.

Gloria Torres added that if the district should be trying to get to the bottom of why students are dropping out especially in a time when just coming to school has created fear because of the pandemic.

Deputy Superintendent Jason Brown stepped in to respond to Veales’ question about pushouts saying that he was very aware of some of the practices of past principals [no longer in the district].

“So it’s really important to say that that’s no longer an acceptable practice for Oklahoma City Public Schools in any way, shape, or form,” said Brown.

He reinforced the information Mouse gave earlier about processes saying that principals now are expected to be proactive and head off dynamics that lead to students dropping out.

Credit recovery

During the executive session, Mouse talked with Free Press further about the results they have already seen in their process of identifying students who need credit recovery as soon as possible.

“This year, in summer school, we had 615 credits recovered. The previous summer in summer school, we had 123,” Mouse told us. “So, it’s just attention to who is behind and getting them into credit recovery.”

This summer session was extraordinary in that federal monies passed through the OKSDE for enhanced summer school resulted in the district developing the most extensive summer program in years even establishing bus routes.

To learn more: Stranded students get lifeline back to school with new state program

Mouse said that in the course of last school year they identified students who were needing credit recovery and 456 students recovered credits during the school year. She believed that the year before it was 147.

“So, it’s just an awareness of who’s behind and getting them early and getting them in,” Mouse said.

Slide deck

This is the supporting slide deck that was attached to the board agenda:

PK-12-Schools-Secondary_Dropout-Report-2019-2020

Supt rehired for another year

In other developments Monday, board members concluded their evaluation process for Superintendent Sean McDaniel in executive session and extended his employment for another year. They also added $3,700 to his base salary bringing the total to $260,740.


Last Updated September 14, 2021, 9:27 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor