The more students who stay in high school, the more who will get a diploma — and who will continue into college or qualify for a job open only to high school graduates.
And students who drop out are more likely to get in trouble with the law.
So it is great news that dropout rates in Lowcountry high schools and in the state have fallen.
According to the latest available figures, Charleston County’s dropped from 5.5 percent in 2008-2009 to 2.4 percent in 2011-2012.
Berkeley’s dropped from 5.5 percent to 2.0 percent; Dorchester 2 from 4.3 percent to 1.3 percent; and Dorchester 4 from 3.4 percent to 2.5 percent.
The statewide average fell from 3.4 percent to 2.5 percent in the same time period.
Those are moves in the right direction.
Students drop out for any number of reasons, such as taking care of a sick parent to having a baby. Other dropouts are looking for a life-style change, and some former students wind up getting a big one in jail.
But it is certainly true that students are more likely to drop out when they can’t do the academic work because their educational foundation is inadequate. Too many students enter high school unable to read even at a fourth grade level.
That’s why state Education Superintendent Mick Zais is asking lawmakers to require that students demonstrate mastery of basic reading, writing and mathematics skills before third grade. Social promotion sounds “kind” to the student, but it’s anything but that. The best that schools can do for students is to set appropriate standards and work with students until they achieve them.
Dr. Zais is also a proponent of school choice, noting that different children learn differently. Parents need options so they can choose what is best for their sons and daughters.
School districts are working to include choice in their offerings: Montessori, arts-infused and military schools are some.
Charter schools also offer choices. A recent study on charter schools by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that not only are they making slow but steady progress across the board, they are of particular benefit to low-income, disadvantaged and special-education students.
South Carolina has a long way to go on its road to well-educated high school graduates.
Clearly some initiatives — like early childhood education — are making a difference.
And reducing the dropout rate means that more students will be prepared to graduate with a brighter future.