By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
CANTERBURY — School adminstrators should look at different ways to help students who are close to dropping out, Belmont High School guidance director Lisa Ransom told the Shaker Regional School Board Tuesday.
Traditionally, Ransom said, if a student fails a class, he or she needs to repeat the entire class, and that's not the best approach.
"Often times, there is no need to repeat the entire course and (because of this) kids become overwhelmed," she said, adding that many students understand most aspects of a class but may struggle with one aspect and need only special instruction to get a passing grade.
As an example, she said there is no reason a student can't finish ninth-grade English and still take 10th-grade English at the same time, but said extra staff may be needed to do this to keep class sizes down.
Ransom made her statements in response to a board request that the school district address the fact that of the 96 students in the 2015-16 graduating class, only 84 of them got their diplomas in June.
Business Administrator Deb Thompson said that of the 12 who did not graduate, three students participated in summer school and are expected to graduate, and nine of them are scheduled to return this fall.
State Department of Education statistics indicate that Shaker Regional School District has a "0" dropout rate for 2014-15, which is the last year data is available on its website.
Ransom told the board that the school already knows who the struggling students are and should begin to address the issues in ninth and 10th grades and before it becomes a potential graduation problem in the later years of high school.
Ransom also said that summer programs add electives, noting this year there are 40 students in four core classes. She also said the school needs to provide more out-of-classroom support.
She told the board that there is no alternative program right now. She said struggling Belmont High School students used to attend the alternative program in Laconia but don't any longer.
"We cut our program because we didn't see a lot of success," she said. Noting that all students learn differently, she said the school district should be more aware of other programs like the Laconia Adult Education program.
"Don't go chasing a high school diploma," she said, addressing the idea that a high school diploma is more valuable than the former GEDs, or HiSets as they are called now. She said the equivalent degrees are far more rigorous than they used to be and allow some students to get on with their lives.
She also said that some very bright students get bored and allowing more of them to learn through the Lakes Region Community College and online programs could better suit some of their needs.
Bottom line, she said the entire district, including students and parents, should be more involved during the earlier stages of high school and begin seeking the best and most appropriate education in the earlier years rather than waiting until it is too late and the student is frustrated.
She said there should be a better flow between grade levels after freshman academy and students should learn to identify more with the classes they are taking and not the grade they are actually in.
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