Statistics released by the Waterloo Community School District show a significant decrease in the number of high school students dropping out of class.

For the 2012-2013 school year, Waterloo’s dropout rate declined by 41 percent, falling to 3.95%. The previous academic year, 2011-12, the district’s dropout rate was 6.64%.

District officials say the 3.95% represents 122 students dropping out in 2012-13 and the district’s dropout rate is now within 1.1% of the State of Iowa’s dropout rate, which is 2.83%.

According to Waterloo Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Norris, the district’s dropout number is the lowest in recent history. “The 60 students that returned to school in September, after the RECONNECT TO GRADUATE DAY made a huge difference in helping reduce our dropout rate,” Norris said. “On September 7, 2013, over 80 volunteers knocked on doors of students that had not yet finished high school, nor were they enrolled in school as of that day.”

The district’s figures show, at the same time, Waterloo’s four-year graduation rate dipped by 4.33 percentage points to 70.4%. Norris called the graduation rate “a lagging indicator” which represents the number of students that began ninth grade with their class in 2009-2010 and who had graduated by the end of summer in 2013.

“We are never satisfied when any student drops out of school, failing to graduate,” Norris said. “We will not rest until our dropout rate is zero and our Graduation rate is 100%.  That is why we have provided so many different options for student to earn their credits.”

In recent years, the district has taken several steps to provide students opportunities to finish school regardless of their particular situation. Since 2009, Waterloo has added performance-based diploma programs at both high schools, Crossroads Connection, credit recovery classes, Grad Connect, Virtual High School Academy, and an after-hours program.