Dropout prevention a priority at Camden Hills

By Dwight Collins | Mar 27, 2014
Photo by: Dwight Collins Camden Hills Regional High School has been very proactive in the area of dropout prevention and has a less than 1 percent dropout rate.

Rockport — Compared to the state average of slightly more than 5 percent, the dropout rate at Camden Hills Regional High School is remarkably low.

“We have an amazingly low dropout rate at Camden Hills, less than 1 percent,” said Helen Scipione, director of the Zenith Program, an alternative education option for high school students. “Every school is mandated by the state to have a committee to address dropout prevention and ours is made up of school board members, a student from Zenith, parents, community members and a representative from the Community School. Together we brainstorm and come up with ideas on how to keep kids in school.”

Scipione said she feels the committee works very hard to identify students, make sure proper programming is in place and that students get the assistance they need to complete high school.

“Ultimately we are asked how we can do better,” Scipione said. “Our goal is to create a unified picture by tracking how many students are or have been at-risk, where did they end up and what programming was in place.”

The committee also works on finding proper interventions for students at-risk to catch them before they become disenchanted with the educational process.

Scipione said Camden Hills has some very good programs in place such as the Zenith Program and Child Find. Maine Regional Child Development Services conducts Child Find, which is the process of identifying children with disabilities. Scipione said she also feels a new behavioral program called Rising Tides could add yet another layer of prevention.

“I really credit Child Find for our low dropout rate because it does such a good job collecting that data on at-risk students to see what they have in place for services and to identify what kinds of programs they really need,” she said.

There are three major contributing factors that lead to a student dropping out of high school, she said. Attendance is the first, and really the most important, according to Scipione, because once a student misses a certain amount of time, they fall behind. Then, the stress of trying to catch up with the rest of the class can turn into a sense of hopelessness and the student gives up altogether. Once the student falls behind in one class, they then begin to fail at accumulating credits at the same rate as peers.

“Sadly, we also see that the kids at-risk also have a higher rate of family support services,” she said. “Alternate learners also have struggles — they may be really strong in the arts but are very, very weak in the math and sciences and get lost sometimes. I also feel that another more anecdotal cause is that they are suffering from some unresolved loss.”

Scipione said the committee will continue to work toward an official drop out prevention plan and has several meeting in the future to discuss innovative ways to tackle the issue.

“We have meetings scheduled that we have invited experts on the subject and interventionist to help us create the best possible plan to bring to the school board,” she said.

Scipione also feels working with the Adult Education program on how students at-risk or already withdrawn from Camden Hills can get the programing needed to gain the HiSet or GED diploma.

"Once you leave Camden Hills and gain the HiSet or GED, you are still considered a dropout," Scipione said. "We want to be able to help them understand everything that is available to them."

Courier Publications reporter Dwight Collins can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at dcollins@villagesoup.com.

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