Guam - The Guam Department of Education is facing some challenges with its high school graduation and dropout rates, with more students now dropping out and less graduating.
In school year 2009-2010 there were 1,838 students who graduated from all of Guam’s five high schools. That was the most graduates DOE had seen in a while. Since school year 2005-2006, more students were graduating from high school, except for school year 2008-2009 when it dropped, but only by 39 students.
Then within the last school year, it dropped significantly, by 197 students.
Dropout rates, however, have been fluctuating from school year to school year. At one point between school year 2004-2005 to the last school year, there was a jump of 144 more students dropping out, but then in the following school year, there were 164 less high school dropouts. So what’s causing the rates to jump?
"Right now it’s kinda difficult to pin point what the factors are. I know that some schools do keep records of students and talking to them about why they’re not coming to school or why they’re dropping out but right now we don’t really have a comprehensive report or study talking about the main reasons why students don’t complete," says Joseph Sanchez, deputy superintendent of curriculum.
While it doesn’t sound too appeasing, Sanchez says DOE has renewed its focus on studying the factors contributing to more dropouts and less graduates. In the meantime, he says, DOE has several programs in place to help students successfully complete high school, whether it may take the standard four years, or more.
"We’ve had a couple of programs that we call credit recovery programs that we’ve had over the past couple of years including summer school and ... night school and what this does is gives students an opportunity to make up credits that they’ve lost throughout the school year," Sanchez says.
But Sanchez indicates that the high school curriculum can be tricky. With a 24-credit requirement in order to graduate and a tight schedule, students don’t have a lot of flexibility during normal school hours to make up for credits lost."We require 24 credits for a student to graduate so in other words if they fail even one class in freshman year or sophomore year they still have to make that up in some other way so these programs allow students to make those credits that they lose when they fail a class," he says. "Now that’s of course after they’ve already failed the class and it’s already been a hindrance to them."
Nevertheless, Sanchez says DOE is now focused on monitoring students who they believe may be at risk of failing a class. This new approach, he says, could help more students graduate from high school.
"What we also want to work with the schools on is taking a look at what are some possible ways that we can start tracking or identifying students who may be at risk of failing the classes so we can either implement some interventions or provide support that would allow them to pass the class before they actually fail. So that’s basically what is the focus for us over the next couple of years," Sanchez says.