04/07/07 — It’s a mind-set: Students don’t succeed without desire to achieve

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It’s a mind-set: Students don’t succeed without desire to achieve

New House Speaker Rep. Joe Hackney is worried about how many students are graduating from the state’s high schools — and he doesn’t think North Carolina is doing enough to keep those numbers up.

So, he stood up this past week and said that it is time for someone to come up with some new ways of reaching North Carolina’s students.

He is organizing a series of meetings later this month with students, dropouts, teachers and others to discuss what the state’s next step should be to keep more teenagers in high school.

And his actions are a good first step — but they are far from close to uncovering the myriad of reasons so many more students are choosing to leave school without a diploma these days.

There are many here at home and in Raleigh who say that there is a serious need for educational alternatives for those students who do not fit the traditional academic mold.

They suggest creating a vocational alternative that offers those students a chance at a career and a future. The programs would not be easy. The training would be rigorous and there would be requirements for getting final certification in a variety of career fields. But when they were finished, the vocational graduates would be ready for the work world.

They also say that schools are too focused on traditional academic pursuits and do not offer alternatives for students whose fortes might not be English and math — and who probably will not be interested in going or able to go to college.

Hackney and other critics are right in one sense — there need to be more opportunities for students who are not college material or who have talents that could lead them in other directions. Vocational options could take care of that void.

But if the speaker is really interested in improving education in North Carolina, he will need to look at a few other facts before he will be able to see the graduation rates turn in another direction and more students ending up in viable careers.

It is still about attitude, attitude, attitude.

Students who are unmotivated and uninterested in devoting time to their education — and those who are faced with less than positive role models when they come home — will never be reached by simply adding another educational option.

They have to be taught responsibility for their own futures — and have a standard set for them that is reinforced by advancement based on achievement and hard work.

They also must understand that succeeding in business also requires certain basic skills. A vocational program would need to include English and math, and if you do not make the grades, you do not get the diploma, period.

Finding alternatives is great, but it will not solve the problem of providing a trained work force for the future.

Setting high standards and then insisting our students meet them is a great way to get high school graduates and future employees who can succeed in whatever profession they choose.

Published in Editorials on April 7, 2007 6:53 PM