ELGIN – School Superintendent Nate Meraz believes there’s a broader story behind district statistics than meets the eye.
In November, Elgin’s Board of Education accepted reports on school dropout and remediation classes for college freshmen. The reports showed Elgin had a 7.1% dropout rate for 2020, but the school graduated all its seniors. The statewide dropout rate was 9.8%
Meanwhile, the 2020 school district profile showed 20% of college freshmen from Elgin had to take at least one remedial course in math, English, science or reading. The figures applied to the graduating classes of 2017-2019. The statewide average for remedial classes was 32.9%.
The two reports were part of the 2020 school district profile provided by the state Department of Education.
Meraz believes the state statistics give educators a baseline for improvement but acknowledged that Elgin officials focus more on the individual students who have different backgrounds which impact their academic success.
“While statistics are good and gives you information, we care on an individual basis to get these kids through (school) on time,” Meraz said. “We are working and have a caring staff of counselors who want to help each student regardless of their situation.”
Dropout rates can be misleading when some students don’t graduate with their class but eventually obtain their GED.
“There’s lies, damn lies and there’s statistics,” said Meraz, who was quoting Mark Twain. “Of course, we look at the stats, but also look at the true story of what’s really going on. There’s a lot of numbers in these reports but we don’t get wrapped up in all of that. We want to ensure everyone is on a path to graduation. I don’t hang my hat on them as an absolute truth.”
Elgin school officials use the figures from the district profiles as a way to make improvements, if needed, Meraz said.
Meraz, a former baseball coach, used a sports analogy to describe how a student’s performance might be misconstrued with the use of statistics.
“If I have a hitter and he’s batting only .100, you might think he’s struggling. But if I’m watching the game and see that nine times out of 10 he made great contact with the ball but hit it directly at an infielder then it changes his story,” he said. “I’m seeing that he’s doing all the right things but is having some bad luck. I also see he’s trying and wants to succeed.”