Like many others in our community (and state) it was encouraging to read recently in the Courier-Journal that 63% of Kentucky high school graduates enrolled in college in 2010 (and 62.4% of Jefferson County Public School students did the same). And while the numbers can't be compared to the previous year (because the data collection was different), the numbers are definitely worth noting.
But I have a question that wasn't asked, or answered, in the CJ. What happened to the other 37% of Kentucky's students who didn't go on to college (or some form of higher education)? And according to the chart that accompanied the article outlining the breakdown of graduation rates of our schools in Jefferson County. I don't think it was surprising that Brown, Manual, or Male had the highest going college percentages, or that Southern, Western, or Valley had the lowest. These schools are the most coveted and the least, respectfully, by families and students in our district.
What is important to note, and what is missing from this article, is that to create a college going culture you have to start earlier than high school. You have to engage families and students in education in kindergarten (if not in pre-k). You have to make every school one that provides the best educational opportunities for all students, and if you have to model best practices at every school, regardless of the zip code where the school is located. I'm also concerned that there isn't any data about how many students entered these schools as freshman and if all the freshman who enrolled actually went on to graduate? Or were there drop outs along the way? And of those students who did graduate and go into higher education, how many are still there as now sophomores or possibly juniors? Are they on track to graduate with an associates or bachelor's degree?
We know that while we our community celebrates these numbers, there is still work to be done. That in order for Louisville to obtain 55,000 Degrees in our community by 2020, we need to create a community of learners connected to that goal, today. That we have to change attitudes and ideas about college (or any form of higher ed) before our students even enroll in middle school. That there are challenges ahead because when 251 students who graduated from Southern High School and only 41.4% enroll in college, you have a problem you need to address in your community. What happened to those students? Where are they now? Do they have a plan to go to college at some point? Or are they just being "left behind"?
In a study commissioned by 55,000 Degrees, over 90% of students surveyed said that they planned on going to college, and a rather large percentage of adults surveyed emphasized that they understood the importance of a college degree in order for a student to achieve fiscal success. Somewhere along the way this 90% lost interest, lost focus, lost momentum. Perhaps they lost the support of their families, community, and peers. If we want to be a community where learning and education are considered the foundation for a community of care and compassion, we need to start connecting with one another in order to achieve these goals.
While 62.4% is applause worthy, it doesn't get a standing ovation in my house.