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Fort Fairfield High School Suffers Exceedingly Low Graduation Rate

By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, January 23, 2013

For the past four years Fort Fairfield High School has successfully graduated only sixty to seventy percent of its seniors. This means at least 30 percent of its seniors drop out early and don't graduate, or take longer than four years to do so.

“When you compare that to other schools in the state, that rate is not attractive and is among the lowest around for that period,” said SAD #20 Superintendent, Marc Gendron. “Next year's going to be better. We're going to have one more really bad year, then, unless something really disastrous happens, we're going to be back to 90 percent. But that doesn't mean we don't have a problem. The problem's been a consistently low graduation rate.”

“It's not like we've been ignoring the problem, but we've been inconsistent in our alternative education approach. We've been kicking around some ideas about how can we address that issue,” said Gendron.

The school board and superintendent are developing an idea for a group learning plan that would target grades 6 thru 9 where the teachers and the students' peers provide the support system at least every other day that would have otherwise gone to the parents.

“One of the strategies we're working on is finding a way to reach kids earlier in the year before they start flunking a course. What we need to do is get the parents involved, if we can. But sometimes we have to acknowledge there are no parents. When I say ‘no parents,’ that means there are no parents who are invested with helping us. For example, if you have a parent meeting where the parent doesn't come, we need somebody to be there for that kid and that person's got to be consistent. We've got a whole bunch of people who are willing to do this but these are still just ideas we're working on.”

Fort Fairfield High School requires 24 credits to graduate while the state only requires 21. “So, our standards are higher. When we look at the name of every child that was on our dropout list for the past three or four years many of the kids only had two or three credits left to go before they dropped out. Maybe it was so daunting they gave up early, I don't know.”

Gendron noted there is a large school in Maine that issues two levels of diplomas. “One is called an Honor's diploma and their honor's diploma is slightly less rigorous than our general diploma. Then their other diploma—not a certificate of completion—is the minimum requirements to graduate.”

The school board is considering options for alternative education to help those students in Fort Fairfield who need some extra help to achieve their graduation goal.



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