PICKENS COUNTY—Pickens County School Officials are taking several new initiatives in the upcoming school year in hopes seeing graduation rates climb and fewer students dropping out of school.
The district’s goal for the upcoming year is an 80 percent graduation rate, which is eight points higher than the current rate of 72 percent.
Dr. Kelly Pew, Pickens County School Superintendent, discussed four new initiatives at a recent school board meeting.
“It’s an issue that begins in early childhood,” said Pew. “One of the biggest things that we know is that if students can’t read, there is a greater likelihood that they will drop out of school.”
Efforts to raise the rate include; fully restored K-4 funding, which will serve about 340 students; adding reading interventionists to every elementary school; adding eight transition classes with 12 to 15 first graders who are most at-risk of falling off the graduation path and adding four graduation coaches for secondary schools.
Board Chairman Alex Saitta said the initiatives seek to target the graduation problem early.
“I like the aspect of focusing on early reading intervention with the 4-K classes, and those who work with elementary students that have fallen behind in reading,” said Saitta. “The transition classes will focus on students who need the most personalized instruction, again in the early grades.”
Pew says there are a number of reasons students could fall off the graduation path, and it is up to teachers and administrators to find ways to help.
“We have an at-risk committee and we know that there are a number of factors that contribute to a student not graduating from high school,” said Pew. “Some of those things have to do with being behind in reading and being behind in math. Other things can be (outside of school) like a home situation, free and reduced lunch status, or life changing events. The more factors a student has, the greater likelihood that they would drop out.”
With several new programs already in place to help boost this goal, Pew says the district has already noticed some positive trends.
“We’ve actually piloted some programs this year,” said Pew. “We have purchased a level of literacy curriculum that we will be using with our struggling readers in elementary school. We piloted that in some schools this year, and in three months’ time we had students that had grown one and a half years in reading.”