WILMINGTON – Education and community leaders gathered at UNC Wilmington to discuss effective practices to reduce the dropout rate. Their goal is to work together and form the Southeastern North Carolina Dropout Prevention Coalition. The group said it's time they all put their ideas together and lower the dropout rate.
Ben Thomas is an assistant principal at a high school in Pender County. He said he has conversations with students about dropping out a couple times a week.
"No quitting now. I am not going to let you dropout. Here is my deal. Here is what we are going to do," said Thomas.
He said it's a problem he deals with way to often.
"You try to reach the ones you can and work with them trying to provide the support for them and a lot of times it's just listening to them and listening to their concerns," said Thomas.
Thomas said he attended the conference to learn what others in the area are doing to keep kids in the seats.
Onslow County has reduced their dropout rate significantly with the help of a plan that focuses on freshman.
Right now, the average graduation rate is about 70 percent but that number can get as low as having the same amount graduating as dropping out.
Graduation Rates for all students:
Brunswick County: 74.8 percent
Columbus County: 69.7 percent
Duplin County: 71.9 percent
New Hanover County 70.9 percent
Onslow County: 79.6 percent
Pender County: 69.3 percent
“But when you start looking at certain demographics, like African American males, it goes down to like 50 percent. If you look at students with disabilities, sometimes as low as a 40 percent graduation rate," said Dr. Janna Robertson, a UNCW Education Professor.
One area this group said they will focus on is finding students mentors.
"Most kids when they dropout and you ask them why, the normal answer is well no one cares whether I stayed in or not. Mentoring sends a very special message," said Dr. Jay Smink with the National Dropout Prevention Center.
The dropout rate is one of the most significant issues facing educators in the area and across the nation. This group says they are pushing for a 86 percent graduation rate by the year 2017.