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NEWS RELEASES 2008-09 :: FEBRUARY 26, 2009


If there is a magic formula to keep students in school and improve test scores, Hertford County education leaders say the most important ingredient has to be hope. And recent data from the county's high schools prove they might be right.

Over the last three years, Hertford County has experienced one of the largest decreases in dropout rates in the state as its percentage of 9th -12th graders leaving school before graduation fell from 4.38 percent in 2003-04 to 2.95 percent in 2007-08. Last year, the county's high school students also boosted their end-of-course test scores by more than 10 points over the school's 2006-07 performance composite scores.

"Young people need to believe that we believe in them if they are going to succeed," said Hertford County Schools' Superintendent Dr. Michael Basham. "So we are working hard to give them new opportunities and more time to learn. We keep up with students who miss class. Our kids gain hope because they know we are invested in their future and committed to doing everything possible to help them graduate from high school and achieve their goals."

Basham traveled to the State Board of Education meeting in Raleigh earlier this month to talk about his theory of hope and the strategies his district uses to increase student success. After his presentation, Board members were more than impressed.

"Self confidence and a strong support system are crucial to our students' desire and ability to reach their full potential," said State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee. "That is exactly what Hertford County educators are providing in their schools. Local school leaders there are caring, creative and committed to student success and they have set an example all districts should follow."

Basham said his district has used a number of different strategies to get the dropout rate down and test scores up. When school data revealed students were getting caught in a bottle neck in the 9th grade, education leaders expanded summer school. Because more students got another opportunity to pass end-of-course tests and get the credits required to advance to the 10th grade, they wanted to keep learning, Basham said.

Hertford County High School also uses the 9th Grade Academy and the Talent Development High School Modification model to increase achievement. Both strategies allow students to stretch core courses such as Algebra I and II and English over two semesters instead of one. Once they got more time to master skills in class, students were more likely to pass the course.

Hertford County Early College is also an important component of the district's improvement efforts and is the result of a partnership between Roanoke Chowan Community College and Hertford County Public Schools. The new high school welcomed its first class of 53 freshmen in the fall of 2008. School leaders plan to accept 50 more students every year for the next four years. According to Basham, the innovative school model offers students who choose to focus more on academics a "unique adventure" in which they can graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree or two years of college in just five years.

But according to Basham, Hertford's efforts are not just about new strategies.

"None of this progress would have been possible without a dedicated principal, school board, dropout prevention coordinator, school resource officers, guidance counselors, teachers, and social workers who keep up with the kids and make sure they are going to school," Basham said. "We have to work as a team to make sure we give every student the chance to succeed."

Hertford County High School has also received resources, training, and support from the NCDPI District and School Transformation Division to increase student achievement. Services provided include professional development to school leadership teams and central office staff, leadership coaching for principals, instructional coaching for teachers, and guidance in planning and implementing a plan of school improvement. Over the past few years, 54 of 66 high schools across that state that have received support from the division increased performance composite scores and 52 schools increased graduation rates.

For more information about Hertford County Public Schools' dropout prevention efforts, call 252.358.1761. For more information about North Carolina's dropout rates or the NCDPI's School Transformation efforts, contact the Communications division at 919.807.3450.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.