Not every high school student wants to go to college. Not every student wants to finish high school.
The Effingham County School System wants to do something about the latter, and with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Savannah Technical College, it just might.
Savannah Tech has received start-up funding from the Gates Foundation for the Gateway to College program. It’s part of the Early College High School Initiative. What it does, according to the Gateway to College folks, is “provide an important option for dropouts … to re-engage with education. Without a meaningful second chance to connect with an alternative model, many of these young people will never complete their high school diploma requirements, nor graduate from college.”
Effingham County’s graduation rate is 73 percent, well above what the state calls for — 65 percent — in judging system performance. That more than one-third of high school seniors can fail to graduate and it still be called a success is distressing enough. It’s also well-documented what not having at least a high school diploma means for the future — less expected wages over a career. The more dropouts a community has, the fewer skilled workers it boasts.
There’s also higher unemployment and increased costs in social services, health care and crime.
Through the Gateway to College, former dropouts can work toward a high school diploma and earn credits toward a college degree or marketable skills with a technical certificate or diploma.
School board members have approved an application for a charter school, one of the first steps in being able to start a Gateway to College program. Two of the programs in the national network are charter schools, including at Georgia Perimeter College. There are 18 colleges and 59 school districts involved in the program in 12 states.
“It’s another great program,” Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. “There are certain kids who need something else. We’re giving kids a lot of chances to succeed, and that’s what we’re all about.”
We hope the state looks favorably upon the school system’s application so the system can continue to provide opportunities for our young people.