Editorial: Graduation Rates – Storm Lake Times
It’s no surprise that graduation rates in Storm Lake and some area schools have plummeted in the past two years of the pandemic. Storm Lake graduation rate increased from 89.3% in 2020 to 87.5% in 2021. The five-year graduation rate has hovered between 90% and 93% for most of the past decade. Sioux Central and Newell-Fonda also saw declines due to the pandemic.
Superintendents noted several factors: juniors and seniors are dropping out and taking jobs to help struggling families, students are struggling to make it through all the hustle and bustle of blended learning the crisis has imposed, and others just walk away for a host of reasons. .
Although it is a problem, the decline is not a crisis. Considering the demographics of Storm Lake combined with the pandemic, 87.5% is kind of remarkable. First, consider that the heads of many immigrant households here did not go beyond grade school. That high school diploma might not seem so important to an 18-year-old when he might be making $20 an hour. Second, many students try to master English and struggle to get the credits. Third, the school district had to scramble to ensure every student had access to online instruction (laptops, broadband access) who could not afford it, and then support those students when their parents were working two shifts. of work.
We should commend educators for not letting more students slip away.
Fortunately, Storm Lake has a strong system in place with Iowa Central Community College to keep in touch with non-grads who have left school for work. These young people are often lured to earn a degree while on the job and then enroll in further education at Iowa Central. Those who can’t do it in five years can do it in six.
The district has also been in a long effort to get absent students back to school with the help of police and social service agencies. The district is doing what it can within state budgets that have allowed for very little growth and in a system that typically exhausts per-student funding after four years.
The school board will do all it can to strengthen these programs and to strengthen English language instruction and mentoring of immigrant students.
Nowadays, a high school diploma is simply necessary to succeed in the United States. A vocational certificate is almost the new minimum in a rapidly changing economy that demands more sophisticated skills even in basic industries like food processing. To progress in America, you need an education and you need to be fluent in English.
Education is a fundamental responsibility of the state. We need to build outreach to alumni through Iowa Central and provide them with these GEDs. We need to ensure that every student has online access so they are not left behind. The district has made steady progress in purchasing Google Chromebooks, but we still need more technology. We need more one-on-one mentoring for students. Iowa relied on an immigrant workforce in meatpacking. It must help the children of these workers to build a better life here by keeping them in school. We need longer enrollment times to ensure funding stays with students whose schooling is interrupted. We need even closer integration with community colleges. We need more advisors and teaching assistants (and these AIs deserve much better pay for their work as yeoman).
Storm Lake (as well as Newell-Fonda and Sioux Central) are doing what they can with what is essentially an educational budget that hasn’t grown for several years. Next year, state aid to local schools will increase by 2.5% in the face of an inflation rate likely to be twice as high.
School performance during the pandemic has risen to the occasion, given the huge disruptions. Storm Lake instituted a whole new online/in-class schedule in a jiffy as Covid rates here were the highest in the country. It’s a loss for everyone when a student doesn’t graduate. The educators did not abandon them. They still need more support from the state to catch every student before they fall. It’s not that expensive, relatively, and it’s cheaper than trying to find them in the workplace to lure them into class. Over time, the community and the state benefit far more from the added cost of working with struggling students by turning them into highly skilled contributors to our society.