Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 30, 2013

Close the deal

Program aimed at getting more to continue education

The Independent

ASHLAND — In just two years, the percentage of Greenup County High School graduates that are deemed ready for college or work has more than doubled. Unfortunately, only about half of those graduates continue their education after high school.

Greenup County School Superintendent Steve Hall and GCHS Principal Jason Smith want to see the number of Greenup High graduates enrolling in either a two-year or four-year college or a vocational training program increase to at least 75 pcercent. “A goal of 75 percent, we believe, is reasonable,” the superintendent said. “Obviously we want 100 percent, but right now 75 percent would be reasonable.”

To help achieve that goal, Greenup County High is one of four Kentucky high schools that will take part in the “Close the Deal” program offered by the Kentucky Department of Education in cooperation with Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson who began the program at six high schools in Jefferson County when he was Louisville mayor. The other three schools this year are Covington Holmes, Gallatin County and Logan County.

This is the second year for the program has been offered statewide. Last year, Lawrence County High School in Louisa was one of only three schools in the program. Bullit Central High School and Campbell County High School were the other two schools.

The program provides training, suggestions and tools to high school guidance counselors and administrators to encourage students to pursue post-secondary education and works with the business community to provide support.

While mayor of Louisville, Abramson was known for working to attract employers. But the lieutenant governor told representatives of the participating schools that improving the education of Kentucky’s workforce is critical to the state’s economic vitality. He said he was often told by business leaders they “would expand my business in Kentucky or I would re-locate my business to Kentucky if I could be assured there is a skilled, educated and productive workforce.”

The program seems to be working at the schools where it’s been implemented. At Bullitt Central, principal Christy Coulter said only about a third of its students were applying for college or some other form postsecondary education before the program. Now 94 percent are.

Both Hall and Smith are enthusiastic about joining the program. Recent years have been challenging for the Greenup County School District. Three years ago, Greenup County High was designated a priority school because of its students having among the lowest scores in the state on student achievement tests. While a black mark on both the high school and the school district, GCHS used the state professional assistance it received because of the low test scores to make changes that have brought dramatic improvements in those scores.

“We are making very strong strides coming out of priority status and we’re headed toward proficiency,” Hall said, adding that he thinks the progress the school has made helped it land one of the “Close the Deal” slots this year. “I believe the progress we’re making has been noticed by KDE,” he said. “We are a prime, fertile ground (for the program).”

The Greenup County School District also has struggled with a high number of students who live in the district but attend school in another district, mostly the Raceland-Worthington and Russell independent school districts. Some attend out-of-district schools because it is more convenient for their parents or to play sports, but having among the lowest test scores in the state, did nothing to encourage parents to send their children to GCHS. In fact, we think the best way for Greenup County to get more of district residents to attend district schools is to greatly improve its test scores not only at the high school but at all levels.

But the “Close the Deal” program focuses on what Greenup grads do after high school. A high school degree is no longer enough. Not only do we hope that its leads to more Greenup High grads furthering their education but that more of them are successful when they get to college or enroll in a vocational program.