The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Carthage, Jasper County

November 16, 2009

Area schools impress upon students the importance of graduation

By Emily Younker

Four local school districts will use this week to emphasize to students that graduation matters.

The campaign by the Joplin, Webb City, Carthage and Carl Junction districts targets all students, said Webb City Superintendent Ron Lankford.

“Something we’re really trying to embed is the idea that just as kids are ready to start school at age 5 ... (we’re) all sharing the same expectation that just as we start school, we need to stay in school,” he said.

Public service announcements created by the districts, featuring students who dropped out and later returned to school, are scheduled to air soon.

Joplin schools are displaying pro-graduation signs at classroom doors, sponsoring writing and poster contests, or creating slide show presentations for students. McKinley Elementary School invited its teachers Monday to dress in graduation caps and gowns. Today, they’ll wear their college sweatshirts, and more events are planned later in the week.

The Joplin district has put a renewed focus on its graduation rate, which in the spring was 75.7 percent, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. District officials have listed improving the graduation rate as a major part of the strategic plan.

The Carl Junction School District has planned morning announcements for all students on the importance of graduating, said Tracie Skaggs, public relations director.

Georgiana McGriff, Carl Junction High School principal, said other initiatives that are focused on graduation rates include bulletin boards that highlight reasons why students should stay in school and a mentoring program that targets at-risk freshmen.

Several local banks will provide customers this week with printed messages related to high-school dropouts, such as income disparities and unemployment statistics.

Graduation and dropout rates have garnered much attention recently across the state, which adopted the slogan “Graduation matters in Missouri” in April after a dropout-prevention summit put on by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Joplin, Webb City, Carthage and Carl Junction districts participated in the summit and soon formed an alliance aimed at improving graduation rates. Their efforts resulted in the current campaign, which coincides with the National Education Association’s 88th annual American Education Week.

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Carthage, Jasper County