OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - After trying for decades, Mississippi has achieved something that’s never been done before. The state high school graduation rate now matches the national average of 84 percent. The numbers on the Coast are even better. However, the news is good but the work isn’t finished yet.
The new numbers are music to the ears of educators. Something has changed in this state in recent years when it comes to graduation. There are no excuses anymore.
“Our students and out teachers will not accept failure," said D’Iberville High Principal Cheryl Broadus. "It’s creating a family, a sense of community. It’s our teachers reaching out a making connections with our students.”
Most students have gotten that connection, with a laser focus.
“Graduation is like an opening door to something new and something bigger," said student Alivia Lechner. "I definitely feel like I’m prepared to face that head on.”
Just as society has become more diverse, so has education. That leads to more engagement in the classroom, according to Ocean Springs High assistant principal Carla McCaleb.
“We try and offer a variety of classes for each student," said McCaleb. "Some students want to go the career technical route. Other students are into the AP classes and ROTC.”
Although matching the national graduation rate is a cause for celebration in a state that ranks last on many lists, every now and then there are failures and those failures continue to haunt educators.
“They chose to not continue their high school diploma and I still think about that student and a couple of others on a continuous basis and wonder how they are doing in life today," said teacher Lamenda Hase, recalling one student in particular.
Some students know firsthand about the risk of dropping out.
“I’ve actually had friends that were thinking about dropping out and the biggest thing that I told them is...'You need to do this because if you don’t graduate high school, you’re not going to have that base knowledge. You’re not going to get hired at a lot of places. You’re not going to be able to start that career that’s going to be the foundation for the rest of your life in success,'" said student Robert Hughes.
There is even more good news tonight. The state graduation rate for students with disabilities has increased for the fifth consecutive year, up to 38.4 percent compared to 23.2 percent just four years ago.