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Why kids drop out of DHS

Michael Schneider

Why would you want to leave a school district such as the one in Douglas County?

This was just one question asked in a exit survey mailed to students who dropped out of Douglas High School and George Whittell High School over the past two academic years by Dennis Guido, coordinator of occupational education.

Guido, who appeared before the Douglas County School Board at Tuesday’s meeting at Kingsbury Middle School, told the board he got the idea for the exit survey from other school districts. He said after receiving the surveys of other schools from around the country, he picked out questions that fit Douglas County.

“In September of 1995, we finally had a finished product in good enough shape to give to the schools,” said Guido, who told the board the surveys were first given to Douglas dropouts in October 1995.

The survey, which was mailed to dropouts along with a letter informing them that they could still come back to school, asked students questions such as why did they leave, what did they like and dislike about school, is a diploma important, what were favorite and least favorite subjects, are you considering returning, and what could the school district have done differently to help you stay?

Guido said the results of the survey are not scientific. He said some students didn’t return the surveys while others didn’t answer all the questions.

“It’s more of a tool to see why students leave,” said Guido. “We got about 10 percent back. That’s about the national average.”

The most popular reasons for leaving listed by the students who returned the survey were moving, employment and failing school. Others said they left the school district because they were bored, expelled, participating in home schooling or getting a GED, or there were too many people on drugs.

Exiting students listed what they liked least about school as problems with students, teachers who were judgmental, harassing and disciplinarian, homework, detention and drugs, and never knowing who the principal was.

Departing students listed teachers, friends, learning, as what they liked about school.

Suggestions as to what the schools can do to help more students stay in and graduate included:

“Don’t judge them. Encourage them and help them.”

“Pay more attention to the students.”

“Teach them something they don’t already know.”

“No homework.”

In a development Guido referred to as “kind of interesting,” all but one of the dropouts wrote on the survey that they felt a high school diploma was important.

To the question of “What advice would you give a student considering leaving school?” some of the respondents answered as follows:

“No. You need your diploma, even if they aren’t teaching you anything.”

“Leave Douglas because you won’t regret it, but get your diploma.”

“Have a plan B. Don’t act out of anger alone.”

“Don’t leave school without a good reason.”

“Whatever is best for them.”

“Don’t.”

“Stay in school.”

“Most say to students: ‘Don’t leave school,'” said Guido. “It’s kind of fascinating.”

Less than half of the respondents said they were working full-time after leaving school and about a third were not employed at all.

Of those who listed their new occupations, they included a truss builder, two car washers, four fast food employees, a grocery store worker, a dishwasher, a former student working in construction, a landscaper, and a forestry fire department employee.