American public high school students have reached milestone, 80-percent of students are now graduating. The highest rate ever recorded, and many educators are attributing it to a growing awareness of the dropout problem.
Assessment Data Coordinator Jon Lever says, "I think we're starting to see a really concerted effort in trying to keep kids in school, especially that group, those groups that traditionally dropped out of school. We have some programs and have had for a while some other programs trying to keep kids in school."
Natrona County’s rate isn’t quite that high, but it’s been consistently rising since 2010. "We are seeing in general an increase in our graduation rate. We'll a little bit below that 80 percent we're about 74 percent," Lever said.
Wyoming’s economy is one of the main factors. A low unemployment rate shows anyone who wants to work is working, which doesn't help with the graduation rate. Executive Director of Curriculum Kelly Hornby says, "That does trickle down into the kids that drop out. There not finding meaning in the education that we provide and they can go out and get a pretty decent job."
However, educators say many students test the waters in the job field, but eventually come back. "We know probably by the time they reach maybe 26, 27 years of age, they have gone back and achieved there GED or they've entered into some post-secondary experience to get their credentials," Hornby said.
Many attribute the increase to the county’s changing economy. "A lot of our careers in this country are shifting more towards technical jobs and kids need a solid foundation to be able to do some of that work," Lever said.
Researchers project the graduation rate to increase another ten percent by 2020, and Natrona County educators agree, as many schools are developing a job-field curriculum "That’s to make some of our teaching and learning more relevant and rigorous for kids. So they're not only preparing for a career, but there preparing for a post-secondary experience as well," Hornby said.