Dropout stats better in region’s districts

Mississippi’s dropout rate rose slightly to 17.0 percent last spring, but most Northeast Mississippi districts beat the state average.
The Mississippi Department of Education released its annual graduation, completion and dropout rate statistics on Wednesday. The data is for students who began as freshmen in 2006 and graduated in 2010.
Although Mississippi’s dropout rate rose from 16.8 percent for the 2009 graduating class, 20 of Northeast Mississippi’s 31 districts had dropout rates below 17.0 percent. However, school districts in both Tupelo (22.4 percent) and Lee County (20.6) had higher rates than the Mississippi average.
Students are tracked through self-reported data provided by school districts, but this year, the MDE collaborated with the Mississippi Legislature and the office of state Auditor Stacey Pickering to place more accountability on school districts to verify that their data was accurate.
The completion rate includes students who graduate, as well as those who received completion certificates or received their GED through a school district-sponsored program.
Twenty-four Northeast Mississippi school districts had better completion rates than Mississippi’s 78.6 percent, and 18 districts in the region exceeded the state’s 71.4 percent graduation rate.
Lee County and Tupelo were below the Mississippi average in all three categories. Both districts had a 74.7 percent completion rate. Tupelo’s graduation rate was 70 percent, and Lee County’s was 64.9 percent.
Although the state dropout rate rose this year, there was improvement across the region. Eighteen Northeast Mississippi school districts had lower dropout rates this year than they did last year; 13 districts got worse.
Compared with 2006, the oldest statistics computed under the current model, 17 Northeast Mississippi districts have improved their dropout rate and 14 have gotten worse.
The five lowest dropout rates in Northeast Mississippi are Union County (2.1), Calhoun County (4.7), Pontotoc County (6.5), Tishomingo County (6.7) and Baldwyn (6.7). Pontotoc County and New Albany are the only two districts in the region to have a dropout rate under 10 percent in each of the five years of the current statistics.
The six districts in the region with dropout rates of greater than 20 percent are West Point (28.6), Oktibbeha (28.1), Houston (25.1), Starkville (23.2), Tupelo (22.4) and Lee County (20.6).
The five best graduation rates are Booneville (88.6), Union County (85.7), Calhoun County (84.3), Corinth (82.1) and Pontotoc City (81.4). The five worst are Okolona (46.1), Chickasaw County (55.0), Oktibbeha County (58.0), West Point (58.5) and Houston (64.2).

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal