It’s an optimistic sign to see a decline in high school dropout rates, and reason, we believe, to applaud our local school systems for jobs well done in keeping students in school.
While it’s true that we, nor school officials, should be satisfied with dropout numbers until every student stays in school and
receives a diploma, one should look at this particular educational glass as half full and not half empty.
Yes, there’s still work to be done, but as parents and citizens of this great county, we should focus first on the work that has been done and the diligence shown in accomplishing what, by all accounts, can be a Herculean task.
Yet school officials in Sampson County and Clinton City schools have tackled the task with great gusto, looking at new and different approaches to making school palatable for those most easily enticed to leave the confines of a school facility and never look back.
In Sampson County, the current dropout rate has declined to 3.14 percent, significantly lower than the 6 percent it was just a few short years ago.
Clinton City boasts an even more impressive, and lower, number, at 1.78 percent, down from an equally impressive 2.64 percent last year.
The numbers are positive. Fewer students left school and, just as importantly, school officials are putting programs into place to help ensure that even fewer leave next year and the next and, hopefully the next.
These visionary programs are making differences that should be appreciated by parents, students and community members.
But as long as there are students dropping out of school, the vision — and the programs — must continue.
While the systems’ rates are low, taken on its face value, it still means that there are still young people who have opted to quit their education and, quite frankly, put brakes on what could have been a very bright future.
And for what?
Likely few know the reasons. In fact, the teenagers, themselves, don’t understand their decisions or the consequences those choices will have on their lives.
But educators know and they are working diligently not just to improve the numbers but to conquer them.
That won’t be an easy task; in fact it’s one of the most daunting, but every time they keep one student in school, they are repairing a dent in education’s armor, a crack that has been there nearly as long as there have been schools.
County superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker and city schools chief Stuart Blount don’t try to pretend the lower numbers are perfect. Instead, they talk about the progress that has been made and the battle that still lies ahead.
They also discuss ways they hope to bridge the gap, enticing more and more young people to give school another year, and then another until they find themselves walking across a stage to receive their diploma and a key to a much more successful future.
Lenker and Blount, and their respective staffs, are working diligently to initiate programs that will help keep students in school.
It will take that work and likely more to impress upon young people that choices they make today will most certainly impact them for many, many years to come.
That dropout rates are declining is a sign that what educators are working to do could be making a substantial dent. But the true test will come next year and the year after that, and the year after that.
If rates continue to decline, then educators may have found the right combination to keep young people from making grave mistakes.
We hope that is the case.