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County must do something to curb dropouts

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My Views

By Alex Wimsatt

On Aug. 11 my editor, fellow staff writer and I visited most of Bullitt County’s 23 public schools for the first day of the new school year.

Most of the schools I cover are in the east end so I started my first-first day of school as the newest reporter with The Pioneer News at Bullitt East taking pictures of students, faculty and staff before the bell rang.

As I wandered the crowded front lobby searching for the perfect photo opportunities, I found myself looking back on the time I spent at BE as a student not so long ago.

I thought, “Wow it looks a lot more crowded than when I was here.”

I then realized that was because it is more crowded than when I was there. I graduated with 187 students in 2005 and there were maybe 900 students in the whole school.

Five years later, Bullitt East now has around 1,300 students and a freshman class of over 400.

After getting over the initial shock of realizing that my little high school was not so little any more, I wondered how many of those 1,300 students would actually graduate.

After doing some research I was disturbed to find that since 2005 Bullitt East’s drop out rate has steadily increased, which means more and more students have been dropping out.

However, BE’s not alone.

Statistics from the Kentucky Department of Education show that drop out rates have been steadily climbing across the district.

In 2005 BE’s drop out rate was .77 percent. Four years later it rose to 1.74 percent.

BC’s drop out rate went from 1.03 percent in 2005 to 3.18 percent in 2009, and North Bullitt had the most significant increase in its drop out rate going from 2.08 percent in 2005 to a staggering 5.08 percent in 2009.

Collectively Bullitt County Public School’s high school drop out rate came to 3.27 percent in 2009, up 0.3 percent from 2005.

What’s perhaps more frightening than the fact that so many students are dropping out of high school in Bullitt County is the fact that this trend has not stopped in five years.

And while more and more students have been dropping out of Bullitt County high schools, the state’s drop out rate has actually decreased, going from 3.47 percent in 2005 to 2.89 percent in 2009.

Why is our school system lagging behind the state average?

I’m sure there are several legitimate reasons beyond the school district‘s control, but they don’t change these frightening statistics.

If our drop out rate continues to rise, it could very well mean the future of our community.

Every indicator shows that education is the key to prosperity and, if we don’t keep our kids in school, we may see our county’s growth and progress come to a screeching halt.

BCPS is taking several steps in the right direction toward retaining students, encouraging better performance in math, science and reading, but more has to be done if we’re going to get our numbers where they need to be in order to ensure the future success of our students.

If we want our students to stay in school we all need to encourage them and make sure they know the value of a solid education and the prosperity it can bring.

Not to sound like a communist or anything, it takes a village to raise a child. So many of us are in contact with these kids everyday and many of us see them more than their parents do.

When I see high school students, many times I ask them how school’s going and if they plan to go college.

As a recent college graduate I know the value of a solid education.

I’ve enjoyed the high school and college experience.

It’s my firm belief that one never stops learning and I try to pass that along as often as I can.

Even if you never finished high school or went to college, you can still encourage a kid to go to school and reach for his or her dreams.

Aside from simple encouragement, it may also help our students if they’re made to stay in school.

During the 2010 session of the Kentucky General Assembly held earlier this year the House of Representatives passed a bill 94-6 that would raise the state’s minimum drop out age from 16 to 18 by 2015.

It’s my belief that this is a crucial piece of legislation that could help curb our county’s growing number of drop outs.

I hope the Senate passes House Bill 301 in one form or another during the next legislative session, if only with the drop out age increase, and I hope the Governor signs something into law to keep kids in school.