In Suffolk, our district staff are working hard to improve graduation and dropout rates. Of course the idea is to help ensure that more students are successful in school. And that’s where I sometimes get a bit bothered by the direction our district takes.
So let’s take a look at a couple of things including the article in today’s Suffolk News Herald, that sparked this post. First, is that the improved graduation rate puts Suffolk Public Schools in the “middle of the pack” in our Hampton Roads area. Certainly a better standing than last year, but not yet good enough to help lure significant new business and economy to our area. Second, while the percentage has improved from 72 percent of students earning some type of diploma in 2008 to 77.8 percent in 2009 (a difference of 5.2 percentage points) we still have over 21 percent of our students who are not earning a diploma within four years.
In Suffolk, the graduation issue is mostly addressed as a high school issue. If we truly want to help more students graduate, we’ve got to start much earlier than that. Parents are a child’s first teacher and we’ve got to start there. Then we’ve got to stay with students from the first day of school until their last. We need to continue to fully focus on students through elementary and middle schools so our high-school teachers aren’t expected to catch up a quarter of our students. If we wait to deal with the issues when students get to high school, we’re already too late.