Those of you who have been reading my columns or otherwise getting information on what our schools and district has been doing over the past few years know that it is our objective to become a leader in the state in providing a rigorous and effective education to our students.
To that end, our elected Board of Education enacted a policy that requires all students who wish to obtain a diploma from this district to first demonstrate that they are ready for either college or a career (preferably both).
This requirement went into effect for our current sophomore class and applies to all graduating classes that come after.
Many, many people have voiced their support for the strong stand taken by our district to ensure that there is real meaning behind a high school diploma – much more than doing minimal work for four years.
This is the third year that I have taken the pleasure to personally visit each of our six middle schools to speak directly with the students in the 8th grade who are getting ready to enter high school (about 1,000 students). Together with Robb Smith, our Secondary Director and Brenda Pirtle, Principal of our special programs, we talk to these young men and women about the choices available to them, their own personal responsibility for seeking out information and making informed decisions, and how to get the support they need if it is lacking in their homes. I specifically tell them what it means to be ready for college or ready for a career, we explain to them the special programs like Bullitt Advanced Math and Science program and the Career Readiness Center.
For the majority of students who go to one of our three regular high schools, we describe the programs within those schools, such as the College Credit Advanced Placement program where students will earn 30 or more college hours before graduating high school and the career readiness tracks available in the schools, including business, JROTC, culinary, agriculture and several more.
In short, we spend about 1 1⁄2 hours really talking with them about their future and answering any questions they might have.
This is just one event. By now, all our 8th graders have a complete Individual Learning Plan and have participated in several events centered on college and career readiness. Going forward, the high school principals and counselors will meet with them to further discuss options, and the middle and high schools will work together to see that students are choosing a path that best meets their ability and interests.
We believe that, by building these relationships and talking with these 8th graders in a realistic way, most of them will respond in a thoughtful and mature fashion.
We know they are not yet grown up, but they will soon be making choices that will have an effect on the rest of their lives.
I would like to close by saying that Bullitt County has a right to be very proud of its 8th graders. I found them attentive, serious, and thoughtful in their interactions. People who say that kids today aren’t like the ones from previous generations are right.
In my opinion and experience, today’s students – though faced with a dizzying array of options and quite a bit of uncertainty in the world – are up to the challenge and will do great things.