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 Article of Interest - Cadillac, Michigan (Wexford County)

Retention efforts pay off for CAPS
by Judy Toomey, Cadillac News, September 10, 2002
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Efforts launched last year by Cadillac Area Public Schools to reduce the district’s drop-out rate already are showing results.


The board of education had established student retention as one of its goals for the year. On Monday, Assistant Superintendent Paul Liabenow reported that the district started and finished the year with the same number of 10th-graders.


A few sophomores moved into the district and a handful moved out, but none dropped out. “We had a couple that tried to, but we wouldn’t let them,” Liabenow said.


The district had started the year with 274 10th-graders and had expected a net loss of 14 students.


The retention of sophomores was viewed as crucial to lowering the CAPS drop-out rate, which has been one of the highest among area districts.


Board member Harry Engels, a former high school principal, labeled 10th grade “a make-or-break year” in terms of student success.


Last year, the district implemented a drop-out prevention program targeting at-risk eight-graders and classes to give struggling high school students assistance in completing their coursework.


“We have safety nets that make it difficult to drop out,” Liabenow said. “The high school staff members go the extra mile to pick these kids up when they fall down and put them back on the path.”


Liabenow said it also was helpful to have the board narrow its focus to three goals which the administration and staff worked closely to achieve.


Schools have a financial incentive to retain students. Districts receive $6,700 from the state for each child that completes the school year.


However, CAPS’ retention effort is motivated by more than monetary factors. “From a financial standpoint, the most expensive years to educate a kid is (in grades nine through 12),” said Pat Briggs, assistant superintendent of finance. “It’s also the highest stakes time. ... If (kids) get lost in those years, their life is much different, much tougher.


“With a ninth-grade education, in society the deck is so stacked against you,” he said.
Board members Laurie Melstrom, who recently attended a Michigan Association of School Boards conference, indicated it is almost unheard of for a district not to lose a single student over the course of a year.


“The other board members were flabbergasted,” she said.


Liabenow also presented a report on MEAP test results from the 2001-2002 school year which showed improvements in elementary-level reading, writing and social studies scores compared to the previous year. Gains also were reported in eighth-grade social studies, where CAPS students’ scores were very similar to state averages.


Cadillac High School students scored higher than the state average on the MEAP reading, writing and social studies tests.
 

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NOTE: (ALL RESOURCES PRE-IDEA 2004 ARE FOR INFORMATIONAL/HISTORICAL RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY)