How can you help all kids graduate?
(Kids enter school with lots of challenges. It’s up to all of us to ensure that they stay on the right track, that they put one foot in front of the other and that we support their efforts and remind them that their number one goal is to graduate from high school.)
It isn’t just the responsibility of high school teachers and principals to help students graduate, it’s your responsibility too. You might ask, “Why me?”
From an economic point of view, if every high school student graduated there would be fewer people in jail, fewer people on public assistance, fewer people with low paying jobs, fewer people on drugs, fewer people in the hospital, fewer people committing crimes, fewer people committing suicide and fewer people on the obituary page. In other words, people who don’t graduate from high school cost the American taxpayer billions and billions and billions of dollars.
The economic aspect of students leaving school early is an important consideration, but an even more important consideration has to do with what is right for all Americans. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, when students leave school without their diploma, those students lose some of their dignity and when you lose your dignity, that’s pretty serious.
Minnesota has increased its high school graduation rate in the past several years. It now hovers around 80 percent. That’s not bad. That’s about a “B” average for schools. For some students it takes a year or two longer to graduate and that’s fine. That would make our average even higher.
We still have way too many students leaving school early. Many of these students are Native American, African-American and Hispanic. It shouldn’t be that way but that’s the way it is. The question is how can you and I help teachers and administrators ensure that every student (i.e. 100%) graduates?
That’s a tall order but we can’t settle for anything less, can we? If our goal were 85% or 90% would you want your child to be included in that 15% or 10% not graduating? I don’t think so. Let’s just make it pretty clear that we want every student to graduate and we aren’t going to settle for anything less. So what can you and I do?
Business leaders: 1. Don’t hire anyone unless they have a high school diploma. If an applicant doesn’t have a diploma, tell him or her that when they do graduate, you will put their name at the top of the list for getting hired. Have them sign an agreement with you showing them that you will keep your word. 2. Take time off to speak to students in schools about the importance of getting their diploma. Show them the earning differential between those who leave early and those who graduate. 3. Work out partnerships with schools to have students serve as interns or some other sort of arrangements that will bring students closer to the world of work and make school more real for them.
Community leaders: 1. Ask educators about their graduation rate and be willing to offer help to achieve it. 2. Shout from the top of the courthouse that it is everyone’s responsibility to help all students graduate. 3. Support education by investing in it. Think about what it costs your community in terms of all of those consequences mentioned earlier of not graduating.
School administrators: 1. Remind all teachers from high school on down that they all share in the goal of graduating all students. 2. Remind teachers to ask themselves daily, “What did I do today to help my students graduate?” 3. Don’t settle for anything less than a 100% graduation rate and keep this goal in front of teachers, parents, community and especially the students.
Parents: 1. Realize that you are the most important piece to this puzzle. Without your total support to help your children graduate, the likelihood of having a 100% graduation rate isn’t going to happen. You need to do whatever you can to help your child get through school. 2. Be relentless in your efforts to encourage your child to finish school. Remind them that this is their number one goal in life at this moment in time. 3. Get involved in your school by attending conferences, going to events, talking with teachers, asking your kids about their homework and just knowing where your kids are at all times.
Grandparents: 1. Remind yourself that you are at the very top of the list of people who your grandkids respect the most. Because of this you have tremendous influence on them. You can tell them that if they want to really please you, they need to finish school. 2. Remind your children of their responsibility as parents to get involved in the education of their kids. 3. Continue to shower your grandkids with love and affection just like you have been doing but every time you hug them, whisper in their ear, “I can hardly wait to see you graduate.”
Religious leaders: 1. Obviously you can use the power of prayer to help youth graduate from high school. 2. You can encourage your young people to continue to use the gifts that the Creator has given them. One of these gifts is to think and learn because if they don’t use these gifts, they will lose them. 3. Encourage parents to be the best parents they can be, which translates into doing whatever is needed to ensure their children finish school.
Ask yourself this question, “Do I want my child to earn a high school diploma?” Of course you do. How about your neighbor’s children? How about the children on the other side of town, in the next town, or next state? As adults we wish that every child has an equal chance in life to find success. This is why all of us have a stake in the operation to help all students graduate from high school.