The most startling figures in the University of Wisconsin’s County Health Rankings and Roadmap concern Clallam County’s high school dropout rate. Those figures are collected because as Dr. Tom Locke, public health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, explained, educational attainment has direct ties to overall community health.
The University of Wisconsin study says just 39 percent of Clallam County residents finish high school.
Officials with the Sequim School District were baffled by the numbers, pointing out that no district in the state has a figure that low. The Sequim School District consistently has a better than 75 percent graduation rate, said Superintendent Kelly Shea, who further noted that figure is skewed by other factors, including home schoolers and those who enroll in Running Start.
Amanda Jovaag, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin, explained that they used the data from Washington’s Department of Education.
“There were 1,800 students who should have been able to graduate,” she said. “Of those there were 707 graduates — 39 percent.”
She also explained that most of those students don’t go to school in Clallam County. Instead they are enrolled in the online Insight School of Washington, which has a partnership with the Quillayute Valley School District.
Jovaag said 1,165 were enrolled in the Insight School. “They have a 19-percent graduation rate,” she said.
“If we were able to exclude online schools, Clallam County would probably have a rate more like — I’m guessing — 75 percent.”
Quillayute Valley School District Superintendent Diana Reaume said the Insight program has been revised since those figures were gathered, but said the graduation rate remains low.
She said, “It’s a different way of learning. Not every kid is going to succeed.” She noted that while there is a good deal of student-teacher interaction, the student must choose to go online and do the work — “30 to 40 hours a week.” That requires discipline and motivation, she said.
But, she noted, it’s worth it to those who succeed: “It’s a quality education.”
Reaume also noted that many of the students sign up for the program because they have had troubled academic careers. She said that lacking an option like the Insight School, “Many of these wouldn’t have graduated at all.””
See next week’s Forum for a more detailed article on the operations of the Insight School.