Graduation should be universalIt is cap and gown season in Wisconsin:
By: By Tony Evers , Superior Telegram
It is cap and gown season in Wisconsin: Graduation time. Wisconsin leads the nation in high school graduation rates, according to the latest federal government report.
Whatever road a person takes to high school graduation, and no matter how smooth or bumpy that road is, this is a turning point, and an achievement none of us should take for granted.
Graduating from high school makes everything after high school more positive. People with a high school degree are more likely to be able to support a family. They are more likely to engage in their communities. They even have a higher life expectancy. These are real facts revealed by research.
Every child should achieve this status as a matter of course. We must prioritize this. We must recruit and retain quality teachers and leaders, invest in innovation that works, ensure safe and respectful schools, be accountable for our results, and work for fair and sustainable funding.
But there are Wisconsin students who will not be wearing caps and gowns this spring. Even with nation-leading graduation rates, too many students drop out of school every year in Wisconsin. While some of these young people go on to earn a diploma or equivalent, often pursuing further education, we need to do more.
Economics offers a good reason to work for this goal. High school graduates earn, and spend and invest, more money. Simply by graduating from high school, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, your earnings go up an average of a quarter million dollars over your lifetime. Going on to earn a bachelor’s degree brings another $0.9 million on average. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that dropouts in just one Wisconsin graduating class, the class of 2009, will lose $3.6 billion over their lifetimes from passing up those diplomas. They would have invested much of that money into Wisconsin’s economy, an provided some for state and local services.
For all these reasons, this spring the Wisconsin Graduation Summit brought together teachers and staff from schools with high dropout rates. They learning how other Wisconsin educators had successfully addressed the problem. They then returned to their home districts to apply the new ideas in their work with Wisconsin students. These powerful strategies work because many dropouts don’t choose to be dropouts, they just don’t have the resources it takes to choose to graduate and follow through. They may lack support or the necessary skills.
My agency, the Department of Public Instruction, is extending the reach of the Wisconsin Graduation Summit through the event’s web page, dpi.wi.gov/sspw/gradsummit.html, and through seven follow-up mini-grants which we awarded with the sponsorship of State Farm. This funding will help schools address graduation rates in Chippewa Falls, Green Bay, Sun Prairie, and in the large regions served by our cooperative educational service agencies in Ashland, Oshkosh, Portage, and West Salem. Recipients of these grants will analyze dropout and at-risk data and implement intervention strategies. Some are making special efforts to raise graduation rates for students with disabilities and Native Americans statewide.
Graduates of 2010, as you proudly wear your cap and gown, please accept my congratulations at a time of momentous transition in your life, you have successfully placed yourself in a good position for your next steps. We must ensure that every child walks across the stage as a high school graduate.
Tony Evers is the state superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction.