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FLEXO Magazine : April 2011
Education's Silent Disease High School Graduation Numbers Are Declining Forty years ago, the U.S. had the world's highest high school graduation rate. We were number one. We are now ranked nineteenth, and the experts tell us that the dropout problem is likely to increase substantially through 2020 unless sig- nificant improvements are made. Although it may be tempting to blame parents, the school system, globalization or an erosion of values, pointing fingers will not solve the problem. We have to realize that education's "silent disease" is not just an is- sue for the individuals who drop out. It affects us all. Young people who don't complete high school may end up being a burden if they can't support themselves. Education is expensive, but all too often, the alternative means paying to keep people in prison--- which is much more costly than educating them. For example, North Carolina spends an average of $27,000 per year per inmate. According to the most recent government figures, the U.S. dropout rate is about 30% of all students. That equates to 1.2 million per year. That is one student every 26 seconds, or 7,000 a day. In 10 years, that is another 12 million undereducated individuals scattered throughout the country. Even worse, on aver- age, only 58% of students in America's 50 largest cities make it to graduation. (42% do not receive a high school diploma.) When my wife, Katherine, and I first became aware of these totally unaccept- able numbers, we decided we wanted to help solve the problem. We assumed that we would have to address it with ninth- and tenth-grade students, but we were shocked to learn that we needed to begin at the kindergarten level, that the seeds of a drop- out mentality can begin at a very early age, especially if a student is struggling to keep up with the rest of the class. We were also shocked to learn that fourth- and fifth-graders who read below their grade level and struggle to catch up are more apt to drop out of school. We were somewhat con- fused and uncertain as to what we could do to influence an increase in the graduation rate. By coincidence a friend, who was a first- grade teacher 's assistant, asked if we would consider contributing toward the purchase of an interactive SMART Board for her class- room. We asked a few questions and wrote a check in full for the first one. We were so im- pressed that we eventually bought 11 for that school, to match the 11 that the school system purchased. The school was about a 1-hour drive from our home. We wanted to pursue the SMART Board concept for all grade levels, but decided to work closer to our home. The Superintendent of Schools was excited about the idea. There are 1,800 classrooms in Gaston County, N.C. Nine hundred were already equipped with SMART Boards. That left 900 classrooms lacking this important teaching tool. We committed to match the school district: For each SMART Board they bought, we would purchase and install one. That dream has come true. The target date to raise $4 million for the project was April 30. More than $4 million was raised as of Friday, February 1, 90 days earlier than projected. The total cost of one interactive SMART Board installed with an overhead projector is approximately $3,750. I encourage you to ex- plore the use of this dynamic teaching tool in your school district. If you would like to know more about high school graduation rates or interactive SMART Boards, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Harper Member, FTA Hall of Fame, Stanley, N.C. SPECIAL GUEST EDITORIAL Totani's New CT-60D North America's Most Popular Pouch-Making Machine TOTANIAMERICA.COM 920-632-7319 Interested in Pouch Making? See us at FTA's INFO*FLEX The World Leader in Pouch Making Machinery One of the most cost efficient pouch making machines in the industry • Highest Quality • Longest Running • Lowest Maintenance 42 FLEXO APRIL 2011 www.flexography.org