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Oklahoma Dropout Rate Improving

LAWTON Okla_ Good news for Oklahoma's public schools: our high school dropout rate has improved.

In fact, Oklahoma has climbed to being the state with the nation's 14th lowest drop out rate. The state is well below the national average, and many experts believe that's because of Oklahoma's emphasis on vocational schools and alternative learning programs, like S.C.O.R.E. at Lawton's Great Plains Technology Center.

While the dropout rate is improving, there is a gap in the statistics. There's a difference between dropout rates and graduation rates. Oklahoma's dropout rate is about 2.5%, but only 78% of students graduate. The rest of the students who aren't recorded as Oklahoma graduates either relocate or choose to be home schooled. Typically, school districts don't follow up on these students to correctly count them.

Even with this statistical gap, S.C.O.R.E. Director Mike Newell said the numbers show progress. Educators and administrators realize that not all students are created equal.

"We've learned," Newell said. "It's taken a while, but we've learned that not all students are the same. Some students just don't perform well in a traditional high school setting."

So, S.C.O.R.E. and other similar programs cater to the individual student more than the average public high school does. They have smaller class sizes, each student learns at his or her own pace, and each student gets the chance to learn a trade. The students at S.C.O.R.E. are building a house, literally from the ground up.

"It's an improvement on the regular setting for a lot of students," Newell said. "Because of that, we've helped increase the other schools graduation rates and reduce their dropout rates."

Newell said there's no one recipe that makes a high school dropout. Students become frustrated with school and feel defeated for a number of reasons.

"The reasons kids don't do well in school are as varied as the students we have," Newell said. "It could be family problems, it could be financial problems, it could be just a number of things that they face that keeps them from getting that high school diploma."

Programs like S.C.O.R.E. enhance the public school system by personalizing it a little bit and making sure that everyone has a chance to walk the stage and receive that coveted diploma.

Newell is confident that his students might not have gotten that chance without a program like S.C.O.R.E.

"Unfortunately, because of the size of our schools, a lot of kids just kind of fall through the cracks," Newell said. "We treat a lot of students the same, and they need to be treated different. Each student is an individual. Each one has to be treated as an individual."

Newell said just like every high school student isn't made for a traditional class room, not every graduate is made for college. While some S.C.O.R.E. grads do pursue a college degree, many head to a trade school. He said S.C.O.R.E. educators strongly push furthering the learning trend.

The first class to graduate from S.C.O.R.E. in Lawton was back in 1989. It stands for School of Career Opportunities and Real Education.



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