Thursday, August 17, 2017

Graduating College, Career and Life Ready

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:


It’s hard to believe my oldest grandchild is starting kindergarten this year. With a week-and-a-half left before his first day, Henry is looking forward to starting school.

Even though it’s been a while since I was in the classroom, I’ve learned a few things as a parent, public servant and now, grandfather. I know how crucial education is to individual achievement and how, particularly during high school, planning and forming good habits can help students succeed.

For high schoolers and their parents, I have three tips to share for the upcoming school year.

First, don’t underestimate the importance of showing up. Some absences cannot be avoided, and that is understandable. Sometimes, though, absences add up without students and families noticing. Research tells us that missing just 10 percent of a school year negatively impacts student achievement. That breaks down to missing only two or three days of school a month. So it’s easy to see how those absences can accumulate, yet escape families’ attention.

This tip applies beyond just high schoolers, as it is important to build good attendance habits from the beginning. In the earliest grades, good attendance is a strong predictor for whether students will be proficient readers. By middle school, chronic absence puts students at risk of not graduating. In fact, by 9th grade, a student’s attendance record is an even better predictor of graduation rates than are 8th grade test scores.

Second, high school juniors and seniors should consider dual credit options. Dual credit courses allow students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit. For those with busy schedules or who live in rural areas, dual credit courses can be taken online. At only $48.33 per credit hour, these courses provide students and their families significant cost savings. These are the cheapest university or technical school credits a student will ever take, and they can save hundreds of dollars by taking just one course. Last year, South Dakota students saved more than $4.4 million by using this program – averaging more than $1,000 per student in savings.

And last, enjoy the present but think about the future. High school is the time to start thinking about career paths. High schoolers should explore different fields by taking advantage of internships, job-shadowing opportunities and hands-on learning experiences. They need to begin to weigh their interests, goals, and abilities, and to consider what jobs are available and what paths will lead to employment.

The goal of our education system is to successfully prepare students for college, career and life. Whether they go on to one of our state’s public universities, technical institutes or right into the workforce, we want students to graduate with a plan in place for taking their next steps. Consistent attendance, dual credit and job exploration can help lay the foundation for that to happen.