MADISONVILLE, Ky. (7/2/13) – A recent legislative decision allows Kentucky school boards to adopt a policy that will affect the high school drop-out rate. The Hopkins County School Board approved the measure, which will require students to attend school until age 18, at its last special called meeting.
Senate Bill 97, which passed during the spring 2013 General Assembly, allows school districts to increase the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18 effective for the 2015-2016 academic year.
The Kentucky Board of Education adopted the resolution and has encouraged local boards to do the same. The policy will become a statewide mandate four years after 55 percent of Kentucky school districts adopt it.
For Hopkins County Schools, it means continuing on its current path to ensure each student has the skills they need to be college or career ready, according to Superintendent Linda Zellich.
"It becomes ever more apparent that students should remain in high school," said Zellich. "We have to start with preschool students. We need to increase student success by looking for any barriers they might have to learning."
Zellich believes the most crucial time for a student’s graduation success is starting at the beginning.
"Every citizen of Hopkins County should be preparing for the next generation," she said. "We have to make it meaningful for our children. We need to listen to what their needs are and make changes to that effect."
Zellich said Hopkins County Schools has been addressing high school drop-out rates for several years and offering solutions for seniors to be college or career ready.
"Our expectations are that every student has an opportunity for a world-class education in Hopkins County," she said. "It is up to us to meet those needs. It's truly is like the African proverb: 'It takes a village to raise a child.' We need to identify (students') needs and offer alternatives. You find their niche and take it from that approach."
According to newly-appointed assistant superintendent of instruction for Hopkins County Schools DeDe Ashby, the graduation rate for Hopkins County students is 81 percent, which is significantly above the state average of 77.8 percent.
More information about the expectations regarding the policy will be forthcoming from the Kentucky Department of Education, said Zellich. There are also grants that can be obtained as part of the implementation of the policy.
With Gov. Steve Beshear's backing, SB97 has been overwhelmingly supported with 75 districts approving the policy last week.
"We knew there would be a groundswell of support for keeping students in school to obtain their high school diplomas, but this rush to vote by the school boards has exceeded our already lofty expectations," said Beshear in a press release. "Districts of all sizes and across the state are looking at this common-sense policy and are making the wise decision to move fast to adopt it. They're saying loud and clear that they want to be a part of building a better future for all Kentucky students, and I applaud them for their effort and energy."
The magic number for schools systems adopting the policy is 96. Once that number has been attained, the policy will be mandatory for the remaining school districts to be implemented within four years.
The first districts to adopt the policy last week will be invited to Frankfort for a special news conference with the governor and Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday.
The Kentucky Department of Education is providing $10,000 planning grants to school districts that adopt the new attendance age policy in the 2013-14 school year. The funds are to be used to plan for full implementation in the 2015-16 school year.
Rita Dukes Smith
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