Retention/ Attrition %'s
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I’m looking for some input on what would be considered normal or acceptable attrition rates from year to year.
• 15% loss after 6th grade – first year of playing
• 12.5% loss after 7th grade
• 15% loss after 8th grade going to high school
• 10% loss per year after 9th grade
We have been pretty close to these numbers for the last couple of years as we have started to grow and stabilize the program. I have gotten the impression from some administration that these rates of attrition are way too high and a major cause for concern, but I don’t agree. what do you think?
If my math is right (but it might not be), if you started with 100 students in 6th grade, you’d still have over 50 kids left in your program. I think that’s a great retention rate. It seems completely normal to me for students to drop after starting an instrument and finding it’s not right for them. As students get older, they start to find where they fit into their academic and social lives, and I think that drop after 8th grade is normal, too. Moving from school to school, students may not feel like they connect with their new director and drop after a year.
Schools of different sizes see different attrition rates for different reasons. As you know, it’s easier to get a larger percentage of kids to start band in a smaller school, and I think they tend to stick with it more often because they have deeper connections with their directors than at bigger schools. These students are also pressured to participate in every activity under the sun, and eventually something has to give- and sometimes that is band.
In larger schools, I feel like students often have less of a connection to their director simply because there is less time for each student individually. If you feel like this is an issue for your program, figure out ways you can directly connect with each student both in band and out. If you are only losing 10% of your students after their freshmen year, I think you are okay. Many directors would love to have that rate.
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