Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rising graduation rate good for state

This from the Messenger-Inquirer by way of KSBA:

It is easy to become cynical about Kentucky's high school graduation rate, even though the picture is improving.

After all, in this day and age of ever-higher demands for an educated work force, when close to 30 percent of students do not graduate from high school either on time or at all, we wonder what the future holds for those individuals.

We also wonder what the future holds for this state when so many of its people enter adulthood sorely lacking in the ability to get ahead and forge a good future for themselves.

But the fact is, a higher percentage of Kentucky students are completing high school than ever before, and solid gains have been made in recent years, and that is good news. Couple that with the Kentucky's on-to-college ratio also improving over the years and it means that the state's overall education attainment level is going up. It can't help but pull Kentucky in the right direction.

Here in the Owensboro region, the picture is brighter still. The new report titled "Diploma Count 2008: School to College: Can State P-16 Councils East the Transition?" tracks high school graduation rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by congressional and school districts.

The report puts Kentucky's 2005 graduation rate at 71.5 percent. That represents an increase of 6.2 percentage points since 2001, a growth rate more than double the national average. The 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of the Owensboro area, has a graduation rate of 74.8 percent, beating the state and national averages. Every district in this area had better rates than the state and national average, led by McLean County's 86.8 percent and Daviess County's 86.5.

Part of the reason for success here is the work of the local P-16 Council, called The Greater Owensboro Alliance for Education. The membership includes regional college presidents and school superintendents plus leaders from the work force and early-childhood learning, the chamber and economic development presidents, the mayor and The Learning Community director.

The goal of the council is to strengthen connections between elementary, secondary and higher education.

Much work remains to be done to push Kentucky's high school graduation rate to a more acceptable level, but with the stakes so high, even gradual improvement is cause for celebration.

Students, teachers, school officials and parents working together with the support of the community is the only winning formula that will keep the progress going.

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