School officials from St. Francis High School dispute recent findings that label the school one of 20 in the state deemed "dropout factories."
Johns Hopkins University researchers in Baltimore recently examined data from the Education Department for the Associated Press, pinpointing schools where 40 percent or more fail to graduate from the same school in which they enrolled as freshmen.
The analysis counts the number of high school students enrolled in the classes of 2004, 2005 and 2006 and the number of students who graduated.
While the study acknowledges some of the missing students transferred, researcher Bob Balfanz said most dropped out.
According to the study, St. Francis High School has a graduation rate of 57 percent.
But Superintendent Carol Topinka said those figures are false because the school has a high transfer rate.
She said only about 3 percent of transfer students between 2002 and 2006 were actually dropouts.
"I am aggravated beyond belief," Topinka said. "It's just not correct."
Topinka said SFHS had 182 freshmen in 2002, and in 2006, 85 students graduated. Ninety-seven students left the high school between 2002 and 2006.
The correct data on the dropout rate at SFHS is on the Wisconsin's Information Network for Successful School's Web site, Topinka said. According to WINNS, 18 students were recorded as dropouts between the 2002-03 and 2005-06 school years.
Topinka said the district must report the number of dropouts to the Department of Public Instruction, and after each student leaves, a follow-up is conducted and students are tracked. If the district had such a large dropout rate, it would be in violation of the No Child Left Behind Act, which it is not, Topinka said.
The high transfer rate at SFHS, Topinka said, is partially because the school requires students receive 24 credits to graduate. Meanwhile, Cudahy High School requires 21 credits to graduate and public schools in Milwaukee require about 22, depending on the school. South Milwaukee High School requires 26.
She also said many homes in St. Francis are rentals, and when families move, parents enroll their children in schools closer to their new neighborhoods.
The school's transfer rate, Topinka said, is not acceptable, and officials are working to bring numbers down.
Mary Maushard, communication director for the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins, said the figures in the study were taken from enrollment numbers submitted to the national Department of Education. These numbers were used for comparison reasons.
"Normally transfers don't account for 40 percent of students," Maushard said. "If a school lost 40 percent of students, we need to look and see what's going on there."
She acknowledged Wisconsin's Open Enrollment program and the credit requirement at SFHS could have affected the study's results but said the numbers would not have significantly declined due to families moving from the area, because families with high school students also move into the area.
Currently, 598 students are enrolled at SFHS, said business manager Julie Kelly.
Since the 2000-01 school year, resident enrollment has been declining. About 67 percent of students enrolled in the district are resident students, 26 percent are Open Enrollment students and about 7 percent are Chapter 220 students, according to data from the St. Francis School District.
Chantel Balzell can be reached at email@example.com or (262) 446-6602.
By the numbers
dropouts in 2002-03
dropouts in 2003-04
dropouts in 2004-05
dropouts in 2005-06
dropout rate between 2002-06
graduation rate between 2002-06
Source: DPI's WINNS Web site
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- South Shore NOW claims a second in state newspaper contest (3)
- Teff Gymnasium forever (3)
- Geocaching is a free, easy activity in any community (7)
- Longing for good biking all year round? It's here
- Flying high (7)
- St. Ann hosts winter market
- Man escapes drug sting after trip to hospital (7)
- St. Ann's hosts indoor winter farmers market
- St. Francis Library celebrates its 25th anniversary
- Special feature: Firefighters train to handle situations involving one of their own (5)