Regional School Unit 3 is updating its drop-out prevention policy with a focus on improving the feedback process for finding out why students are leaving school and identifying students who may drop out before they do so.

The district has a drop-out prevention committee that includes principals, guidance counselors, a teacher and parent who are tasked with understanding why students are dropping out of school and how the district can prevent students from leaving.

According to interviews conducted by the committee with students who dropped out, about 70 percent of the dropouts stated they left school because they were not motivated to work hard, did not engage with any adult in the school and they were deficient in basic math and reading skills.

In addition, 30 percent of the students interviewed said poor grades contributed to their decision to leave school, while another 30 percent said they left because they had to care for a family member, had to get a job or they became a parent.

When asked what would have kept them in school, 80 percent of the former students said they wanted better teachers; 75 percent wanted smaller classes; 70 percent wanted more supervision; 70 percent said the schools did not do enough to make school interesting; and 74 percent said they would stay in school if they could relive the experience.

State data on drop-out rates for RSU 3 starting with the 2006-2007 school year indicate the district had a total of 38 drop outs for grades nine through 12; and 19 drop outs in 2007-2008. No drop-out data are listed for 2008-2009, but data provided by the district state the drop-out rate was less than 1 percent that year. The district had 17 drop outs in 2009-2010; 13 drop outs in 2010-2011. No data are listed for 2011-2012, and district data indicate the drop-out numbers were too low to calculate.

Superintendent Heather Perry said the committee's recommendations focused on reviewing the current process in place for gathering feedback from students about their learning process and developing a tool for student feedback within the district.

A recommendation was also made to provide professional development to identify and address students within the district who are at risk of dropping out. Perry said the goal is to get to students who may consider leaving school and address their issues in a proactive manner.

Other recommendations included developing middle school and high school advisory programs; gathering updated information on student climate; considering expanding the alternate education program; refining the response to intervention process for all grade levels; and maintaining and reviewing local data about students who have dropped out.

“Our drop-out rate is fairly low but even one student dropping out is too many,” Perry said.