How HISD plans to Increase High School Graduation rates

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In the 50’s and 60’s, we saw the highest percentage of students graduate from high school. Since then, high school graduation rates have slowly declined. 3 out of 10 students will fail to graduate with a diploma this year. Why is this important? Well for the student, this greatly hurts their income earning ability. Over a working life of 40 years, a high school dropout will earn approximately $1 million versus a college graduate’s $2 million-plus. Now maybe these statistics are not that interesting to you, but this issue does affect you because low graduation rates means higher unemployment and incarceration rates, increased dependence on social welfare and public assistance programs, and loss of millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue. In other words, you paying higher taxes.

So now maybe you are wondering, what is the city of Houston doing to help students stay in school and graduate? Well they are doing something. It’s called “Grad Lab” and it is being offered to students who have dropped out of high school or are in risk of dropping out.

Similar programs have been implemented in San Diego and North Carolina. Essentially, Grad Labs are online courses that kids can take at school or online. The online courses tests each students knowledge in certain areas and provides teachers with specific information on what each student already knows and what they need to focus on in order to pass a class or recover a credit. Students focus on their weaknesses and take a test when the computer program and graduation coaches feel they are ready and likely to receive a passing grade. Progress emails are also sent to the student and student’s parents or other advocates if desired. Only high school kids who have failed three or more courses in a previous semester, students with excessive absences, and those who have dropped out and want to return to school can use these Grad Labs.

So is HISD’s Grad Lab initiative working? Well it is too early to say since it just launched, but the idea sounds good in theory.

In conclusion, you might say that low high school graduation rates are not my problem, but in reality, it does affect you. Next time you see trash building up on your street and not being collected, next time you are at a park and there is a broken swing that needs repair, next time you read in the paper that the city has to layoff fire fighters and police officers, think about our high school students who drop out and fail to graduate from high school because low graduation rates means higher unemployment, increased dependence on social welfare and public assistance programs, and loss of millions of dollars in local tax revenue.

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