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      SC dropout rate down for second consecutive year

      The report released Thursday by the state Education Department says nearly 6,300 high school students dropped out during the 2009-10 school year. That was less than 3 percent of ninth- through 12th-graders statewide.

      COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- Dropout numbers released Thursday by the South Carolina Department of Education shows 800 fewer students dropped out of high school than the previous year.

      The total number of dropouts statewide decreased from 8,032 in 2007-08 to 6,265 during the 2009-10 school year.

      "Every day we are working hard to improve the number of students who graduate and decrease the dropout rate, according to Kerry Able, Dropout Prevention and Partnerships Coordinator for Richland One.

      The school district has seen 75 less dropouts compared to three years ago.

      We have been doing a variety of interventions as a district; working with the principals, guidance counselors and teachers to engage students, Abel says.

      He views the data as an accomplishment because it shows progress is being made within the K-12 system.

      Not everyone feels the same as Abel. Neil Mellen with South Carolinians for Responsible Government believes the statistics could be better and would be, if students were given more options.

      South Carolina's public schools continue to have a serious, long-term dropout problem. The districts, the school boards, and the local superintendents continue to use public money to fight against school choice and other reforms that could increase that horrible statistic, Mellen adds.

      However, both sides agree that a student's success starts at home.

      Education Superintendent Mick Zais says the goal is to keep students focused and engaged from the start of kindergarten through graduation.

      The year-to-year dropout rate is different than the graduation rate. The two are often incorrectly referred to interchangeably and used as political footballs.

      The graduation rate reflects the percentage of students who receive a regular diploma four years after entering ninth grade.

      The on-time graduation rate for 2010 was 72 percent.

      (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

      Click here to read the state Education Department TMs full report.