Set goals high, reach them

Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Everyone, to some degree or another, is goal-oriented. Whether we set those goals low enough to easily surpass them, or set them high enough to push ourselves to be better, they are there to help us measure ourselves against others or against our own previous efforts.

Such is the case with Suffolk Public Schools, and the goal set before it to reach a graduation rate of 80 percent.

The mark, set forth by the state and federal governments as part of the No Child Left Behind legislation, is there to challenge systems to constantly improve their graduation rates.

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Unfortunately, two of Suffolk’s three high schools were well below that mark, graduating in 2009 just 69 percent of the students who began their high school careers in 2005. The statistics for the class of 2010, who graduated just a few weeks ago, will not be available for a few months.

While Lakeland High School and Kings Fork High School continue to strive for the new graduation mark, those at Nansemond River high School should celebrate in knowing their school surpassed the mark, graduating 83 percent of those students.

The temptation now — with such a large margin for improvement — is to find ways to make the task of hitting that 80 percent mark easier, rather than pushing harder.

The temptation now, in other words, is to find shortcuts to the goal or “adjust the figures” to get the needed result.

In fact, what should happen now is quite the opposite. Instead of making the path easier, it should become more challenging.

We should expect more from our students than we did a generation ago. We should hold them to higher standards than those students who have long since graduated.

With today’s technology and advancements in education, the students in today’s classrooms have advantages few have ever seen. They should be held accountable for the results that are expected.

The 80-percent figure is a lofty number for some, but in all honesty, it is far too low of an expectation. In a society that must increasingly compete on a global scale, a high school diploma is the very least we should expect of our students and an 80-percent graduation rate is the least we should expect from our school systems.