Higher grad rates vital
When more students graduate from high school on time, things look better for the community. Graduates have a brighter future. Communities are spared social costs. And employers wanting to expand have a larger pool from which to hire.
So, while South Carolina still has the country's third-worst on-time graduation rate, it is encouraging news that our rate improved more than all but two states, New York and Tennessee.
According to a new report by the Alliance for Excellent Education, if each state had a graduation rate of 90 percent, the nation's gross domestic product would increase by $6.6 billion and generate $1.8 billion in additional revenue with increased economic activity.
The country -- and the state -- have a long way to go before getting to 90 percent. The nation's graduation rate in 2009 was 75.5 percent. South Carolina's rate was 66 percent. Charleston County's was 71.4 percent.
But consider that South Carolina, in 2002, had a graduation rate below 58 percent. And consider that the state also reduced the number of "dropout factories" (schools where 60 percent or fewer of incoming freshman graduate on time) from 101 in 2002 to 58 in 2010.
In North Carolina, one of 12 states that made the most progress in increasing graduation rates, the number of "dropout factories" dropped from 106 to 78 in the last decade.
The report, released this week, says that, despite more than half of states increasing their graduation rates, the dropout rate is still an epidemic.
Mick Zais, S.C. superintendent of schools, has talked about the need to grow the on-time graduation rate "to improve long-term prospects for economic growth and job creation in South Carolina." He believes students need to see the relevance of what they study in school, and he stresses the importance of their having basic skills needed to graduate.
Mr. Zais should concentrate his efforts to speed up the state's improvement and get South Carolina farther up the list. The state's impressive improvements prior to his election, while noteworthy, still mean one in four students is entering adulthood at a disadvantage. Individuals and communities are suffering economically because of it.