Earning a high school diploma has never been more valuable.
With the nation still racked by staggering unemployment, competition for jobs is more aggressive than ever. A job applicant who carries that vital document still has an edge over those who do not possess a high school diploma.
It is good to know, then, that recent statistics show a decline in dropout rates.
Last school year, 3.01 percent of high school students dropped out of school, according to the 2011-12 Consolidated Data Report presented recently to the NC State Board of Education. This rate represents a .42 percentage point decrease from the previous year’s rate of 3.43 percent and another record low.
State Superintendent of Schools June Atkinson knows what a high school education can bring to its possessor.
“High school students understand the connection between a diploma and the ability to reach their goals,” Atkinson said.
“Principals, teachers and support staff should be praised for their efforts to ensure that students are staying on track to complete their education and achieve success after graduation,” she said.
The positive trend in the numbers filters down to right here in our own backyard.
The grade 7-13 Dropout Counts and Rates for Richmond County Schools shows a 2011-12 dropout rate of 2.52 percent, a decline from the district’s 2010-11 rate of 2.96 percent.
The improved rate is due to a focus on student attendance, said Richmond County Schools Superintendent George Norris.
“We are really pleased that our dropout rate has improved,” Norris said. “For several years we have put emphasis on student attendance and reduced student suspensions, thereby keeping kids in school more often with fewer gaps in their learning.”
Several of the district’s principals, including the Richmond County Ninth Grade Academy, are looking at innovative scheduling to help at-risk kids, said Norris. There are also several alternative programs including Leak Street High School, Leak Street Night Academy, Richmond Transitional School and Richmond Early College that give students an option besides Richmond Senior High School, where the district offers a traditional program.
“Our teachers have worked to enhance student engagement and to make their lessons interesting to the students. I don’t think any one thing is responsible, but rather a number of good initiatives coming together,” Norris said.
And here is something else to consider about staying in school: It makes good cents.
High school graduates earn more money than workers who never completed high school. How much more? Almost $9,000 more per year.
Stay in school. Please.