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SF School Dist. Reacts To Federal 'Dropout' Policy

July 5, 2011, 9:53 PM by Katie Janssen

SF School Dist. Reacts To Federal 'Dropout' Policy
SIOUX FALLS, SD - High schoolers who don't graduate in four years will soon be labeled as "dropouts." It's a new federal policy that South Dakota education officials have called "unfair," and Sioux Falls School District officials agree.

For some high school students, life's challenges get in the way of their education.

"We have students who come to us from other countries; this is their first time in school,” High School Curriculum Coordinator Laura Raeder said. “We have kids with disabilities that need extra time with their classes; we have students who move around and it makes it hard to gather enough credits in four years."

Raeder says students shouldn't be punished because of it. When schools don't achieve a certain graduation rate, they're considered "failing" under federal guidelines. In South Dakota, that rate is 85 percent, but it will soon be lowered to 80 percent to help schools deal with the new policy.

"We want to do what's best for kids to make sure they get that high school degree, and with this policy, it negatively impacts schools doing their best to do that," Raeder said.

Raeder says one of the advantages in the Sioux Falls School District is that there are different programs in place that help students who need to take a different path to graduation.

"We have the Freshman Academy, which helps get kids off to a good start with their credits; the Career and Technical Education Academy, which engages kids in their gift for what they want to learn; and we have New Tech High School, which allows for different learning styles," Raeder said.

Recognizing that every student deserves a chance at a diploma, no matter how long it takes to earn one.

"I'm excited when our kids with those challenges do graduate, regardless if it's in four or five years," Raeder said.

The new federal policy goes into effect next year, but South Dakota is adopting it early to help officials transition to the new system.

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