Published 1:37 pm Friday, March 9, 2007
LINDA R. HARRILL, president/CEO
Communities In Schools of
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Are we listening now?
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recently released its new report, showing that only 68 percent of our students graduate from high school. While this shows a slight increase from the original numbers reported by major studies including the Manhattan Institute, it is still an alarming number of students who are not graduating.
Before we immediately attack the schools for failing our students, I believe that it is time that we as a community accept responsibility. We are at fault for not making education a top priority.
It’s our job to demand more for our students. These are not just numbers that don’t graduate. Those numbers are real students who not only need an education, but need a community to surround them.
Our community needs to recognize that youth who age out of the foster care system, have parents who are incarcerated, or don’t have a support system at home are more likely to drop out. We also must acknowledge that expulsion can’t be the final step, because those students typically don’t come back to graduate. Finally, we must acknowledge that students who live in public housing are more likely to drop out.
Our students face obstacles that make simply getting through life extremely difficult; some have parents who are often neglect to provide the most basic of needs to their children — food, clothing and shelter. These parents also tend to neglect responding to school when teachers want them to attend parent conferences, or check their child’s grades on report cards or tests. Often, our students have no one other than school staff to tell them they can graduate. Sadly, even their communities negate this one positive message as soon as they arrive back home.
As a 37- year veteran of public education, I see the same issues as I travel around North Carolina and talk to teachers, parents, principals, superintendents, community leaders and students. From my years of experience, I realize that our students fail mainly because the adults in their communities have failed them.
We know what to do to keep kids in school. Programs like Communities In Schools of North Carolina (CISNC) and its local affiliates have worked for years to support students in and out of the classroom. If we, as a state, choose to prioritize what is important to us, our kids, and our future, I believe we can help these students graduate. We must invest our resources in proven programs that are coordinated, personalized and accountable.
Let’s face the issue. The graduation rate can increase, but we must be willing to challenge the status quo. Our students could graduate and have a real chance to succeed, but first, they need a community that truly cares.