A study has called two of our high schools "dropout factories.'' How bad is it? Depends on who's counting.
BROOKSVILLE — The news last fall from Johns Hopkins University was unwelcome: Springstead and Central high schools in Hernando County were among thousands of "dropout factories" nationwide, according to a study.
Today the Hernando County School Board will examine the issue at a 1 p.m. workshop.
Officials say they must find ways to reduce dropouts and improve a graduation rate that averaged 75.1 percent last year in the 23,000-student district, nearly 3 percentage points above the state average.
According to the Hopkins researchers, any school that didn't graduate at least half of its ninth-graders within four years deserved the "dropout factory" designation.
But Florida school officials objected, saying the study unfairly counted as dropouts any students who transferred to a different school or entered a General Educational Development program.
Using the state formula, district-leading Springstead High graduated 78.8 percent of its ninth-graders within four years in the spring of 2007.
Using the Hopkins approach, the school didn't do nearly as well, losing about 52 percent of the students who began as ninth-graders in the fall of 2003.
What's beyond dispute are the raw numbers.
Out of 2,301 freshmen who came to high school in the fall of 2003 in Hernando County, 1,263 walked across the stage at graduation four years later.
Some 500 left the district or went to private or homeschool. Another 119 entered the GED program; some earned a degree within four years, but others didn't. One student died, and 200 more fell behind in credits and missed graduation.
The remaining 214? According to state and district figures, those were the dropouts.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.