Who is really a dropout?

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2007

Our community and our high school, like the rest of our country, has an issue with any of our high school students who drop out of school and fail to complete their diploma. I've heard many people reference Juneau's "high dropout rate."

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Many comments, stories and letters to the editor in the media reference a "35 percent dropout" (or even higher) rate for Juneau-Douglas High School. In addition, a recent letter even stated that Juneau-Douglas High School, with its "37 percent dropout rate" barely escaped being called a "Dropout Factory." This is pernicious and untrue, and I would like our community to attain an understanding of this all-important issue.

Dropouts are obviously a major concern, however, I would like to point out that if students can't finish their studies on time with their class, they may be considered dropouts temporarily, even if they eventually receive a diploma.

If for some reason, say they take a semester off school to help care for a sick relative, then return and finish the diploma, they are temporarily dropouts. If unfortunately, they failed one class in senior year, and then took that class the next summer and passed it and received a diploma, they may be considered dropouts. If they get their GEDs because school isn't working out for them, they may be counted as a dropouts.

Finally, many students who finish their diplomas at Yaakoosge Daakahidi are considered dropouts. Why? Because they are not graduating on time with their class. According to the federal government, one is not a dropout if one is enrolled in high school, possesses a diploma or possesses a GED. So that being said, Juneau simply does not have a "35 percent dropout rate."

There are many things that can be done to help students attain that extremely important goal of finishing their high school education, and our students who earn their diplomas should not have their accomplishments disparaged by technicalities. However, I, for one, am extremely proud of what our students and staff accomplish in this district, and I would like to see the community understand the numbers with regard to who is and who is not finishing high school.

Kurt S. Dzinich Jr.


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