Waterloo School District takes on Dropouts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo School District takes on Dropouts

by John Wilmer

Waterloo (KWWL) - One Iowa School District wants to add a new program to help prevent dropouts.

The Iowa Department of Education says the Waterloo Community School District is one of the worst in the state with almost 3% of students dropping out. Dubuque is about 3.5%. Cedar Rapids is little over 2.5% and Iowa City has a little more than a 1% drop out rate.

Superintendent  for the Waterloo school district, Gary Norris, has used the Performance-Based Diploma program before. It helps troubled students by teaching them academics, giving them career technical skills, and providing counseling.   

For some students school is not easy and they choose to leave then pursue their diploma.

Victoria Ledesma goes to East High School and although she is only a Sophomore, several of her classmates have already taken this path.

"It's like those are the ones who stop coming to school eventually. Their attendance just gets less and less and they just stop coming," Ledesma said.

Gary Norris, the first-year Superintendent of Schools for Waterloo has used this program while working in Florida. He says he understands the problem and the cause.

"Part of it is caused by poverty. Kids coming from families that live in poverty don't often get as good of start even in kindergarten as we would like them to get," Norris said.

The Waterloo School District has seen their graduation rate fluctuate over years, from 73% in 2004 to almost 80% in 2006 and then back down to almost 76% last year.          

"I think everyone in our community of Waterloo would say especially the employers, especially the parents would say we need every kid with a high school diploma," Norris said.

This program will help about 300 students, 150 from East High School and 150 from West High School. Superintendent Norris has seen the results that can come from this program and believes it will help many who take part. 

Online Reporter: John Wilmer

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