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State needs to get better marks on grad rates
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The educational reform known as No Child Left Behind may become no jobs left at all if the state doesn’t quickly address its gap in the graduation rate.

According to the state’s statistics for 2005-06, the graduation rate in Effingham County was 69.4 percent, slightly behind the state’s rate of 70.8 percent. But data released this week by Diplomas Count, a report from the magazine Education Week and its Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, showed the state’s graduation rate for 2004 was a measly 56.1 percent, far below the state’s measure of 65.4 percent for the same year. State education officials are said to be reworking their graduation rate formula, which will result in a lower number. That could mean that the state’s graduation rates projected for subsequent years also will be lower, and in turn, so will Effingham County’s.

By their figures, the Education Research Center said Effingham’s graduation rate for 2004 was less than 60 percent, not the 68.3 the state figured it to be.

Regardless, the future of American employment isn’t thousands of workers filing into massive steel mills or sprawling auto plants, regardless of Sen. Hilary Clinton’s recent speech to the AFL-CIO. For jobs requiring less skill and more manpower, those opportunities are headed where there are vast pools of cheaper labor — overseas.

America’s employment future is high-tech, and that will require an educated, sharp workforce through either four-year or technical colleges. That makes the graduation rate, and what it reveals about students’ ability to learn and to achieve, even more important.

The Diploma Counts findings also showed that a worker with at least a high school diploma and some education beyond that earns, on the average, 72 percent more than a worker who did not graduate high school.

While the state’s grad rate lags far behind the rest of the nation — Georgia is 47th out of 50 — the Education Research Center revealed that the state’s average teacher and starting teacher salaries are among the best in the U.S. and that the state’s average class sizes and spending per student (in 2002) also were in the upper half.

Later this month, Gov. Sonny Perdue will embark on a trip to Europe and his itinerary includes a stop in Ireland. For generations, Ireland’s economy languished and its people deserted the country in search of better opportunities.

Now, thanks to streamlining the government, offering lower taxes and also bolstering its educational system, Ireland’s economy is the envy of its European brethren. The Irish got their young people ready for a life of high-tech jobs and invested in their education.

With the Effingham Economic Development Authority’s contract with DP Partners for the I-16 tracts and the potential of a large employer at its park along Highway 21, the county will need a ready and trained workforce, one that can adapt to changes and new processes.

Here’s hoping the governor returns from Europe and the Emerald Isle with some detailed notes on how to make the state’s educational system better and not just come home with more blarney.