The failure rates at Oceanside West High School have received some attention in the news recently.

I certainly appreciate the interest and the editorial has raised some important questions.

In this response, I will try to answer some of those questions. It is important to note that the failure rate for students in their first year of high school is not a new issue. It is one of the reasons that RSU 13 decided to consolidate the two high schools.

The article and related editorial stated that 52 percent of all the eighth-grade students failed at least one course. The article failed to make clear that this data was from the first quarter of the year. The first quarter ends at the end of October. The implication was that this was an accumulated year percentage of course failure. So, to clear the record, I would like to present the end-of-the-year data for both eighth and ninth grade at Oceanside West.

Our 155 eighth-grade students received a total of 1,280 final grades. 125 of these grades were failing grades. This translates to a 9.7 percent failure rate. This data also shows that 90.3 percent of all grades were passing grades. 48 of our 155 students did fail at least one class. This is 31 percent of all students. 12 students failed one subject. 10 students failed 2 subjects. 12 students failed 3 classes. 14 students failed 4 or more classes.

Our 198 ninth-grade students received a total of 1,670 grades. Of this total 119 were failing grades. This translates to a 7.1 percent failure rate. This data also shows that 92.9 percent of all grades were passing grades. 52 of our 198 students did fail at least one class. 27 students failed one class. 12 students failed 2 classes. 6 students failed 3 classes. 7 students failed 4 or more classes.

An important difference between eighth and ninth grade is that in the ninth grade, our students begin earning credits toward graduation. In ninth grade, the maximum available credits were 7 credits. Research shows that students who earn less than 4 credits in their first year of high school become more at risk of dropping out of high school.

182 of our 198 students earned 4 or more credits this past year. This translates to 91.5 percent of all the ninth grade. The breakdown is as follows:

7 credits earned: 116 students
6.5 credits earned: 14 students
6 credits earned: 17 students
5.5 credits earned: 6 students
5 credits earned: 16 students
4.5 credits earned: 6 students
4 credits earned: 7 students
3.5 credits earned: 1 student
3 credits earned: 5 students
2.5 credits earned: 3 students
2 credits earned: 0 students
1.5 credits earned: 5 students
1 credit earned: 0 students
.5 credits earned: 1 student
0 credits earned: 2 students

Our school is not all about data. There is a personal story and reason for every one of those students that have earned less than 4 credits. As principal, I can assure you that I know each one of these students and each one of their stories.

The data presented here is drastically different from the data previously stated in the paper on this subject. I think this data shows that the large majority of students had a successful school year in 2011-2012. The reality is that through strong efforts from a committed faculty, concerned and supportive parents, and targeted interventions, many of our students have improved their performances.

Some of these targeted interventions have included:

1) Assigning students to specific intervention teachers for extra support.

2) Staff meetings that have included parents and students.

3) Before and after school assistance.

4) Individual contracts developed that targeted specific skills and plans for improvement.

5) Academy period — This is a period during the school day for students to receive extra help from their core area teachers.

It is also clear that we still have much work to do. Some initiatives that are planned for next year include:

1) A new ninth-grade bridge English class. This class will be team taught by one of our ninth-grade English teachers in conjunction with our intervention teacher. This course will target some of the students who need to build the necessary reading and writing skills to be fully successful in high school.

2) An interdisciplinary science, math and art course taught in conjunction with the Herring Gut learning center.

3) Coaching periods — These will be small classes that will have a faculty coach. The coach will support students who are struggling in school. The coaches will help with organization, work completion, and will provide individual assistance as needed. Regular contact with parents will also take place.

4) We have also hired an additional part-time intervention specialist for the 2012-2013 year.

In an ideal world, our failure rate would be 0 percent. In the real world, we have students who have trouble engaging in school. Many students have significant behavioral challenges that disrupt their ability to be successful in a school setting. We have students who simply do not attend school. We also have students who receive little to no support at home for a variety of reasons. These are not excuses but the realities that we have to deal with on a daily basis. We also know that we have to keep trying to provide the support necessary so that all students can be successful.

It is important to note that another goal of the school is to provide a rigorous education that addresses the 21st century learning skills needed by our students to be successful.

We have raised our expectations and believe that high expectations are necessary for our students to be prepared for the next level. Our hope is that even more students will rise to these expectations.

Consolidating two high school programs into one was a huge undertaking this past year. I appreciate this opportunity to contribute to this public discussion. I would like to thank all of my dedicated staff, supportive parents, and most especially our students for making the first year at Oceanside West a successful year. You have my assurance that the staff at Oceanside West High School are committed to providing a quality educational experience for all students.