Jim Bagwell: We must fix our schools’ dropout rate | NevadaAppeal.com

Jim Bagwell: We must fix our schools’ dropout rate

Jim Bagwell

I was shocked to hear about a recent national report on dropout rates in Nevada high schools. The report by America’s Promise Alliance (APA) compared the years 2002 and 2008. In 2002, Nevada’s graduation rate was 71.9 percent.; it had fallen to 51.3 percent by 2008.

The report went on to indicate that four Nevada high schools in 2002 were considered “dropout factories;” that number had risen to 34 in 2008.

National trends showed some improvement over the same time period, but 1,746 high schools still failed to produce “satisfactory” graduation rates.

We have to change the way we educate. My simpleton mind says we have three parts to this equation, and all have to be solved in unison for dramatic improvement to occur.

First, we must have an education system in place that is 100 percent committed to education and has total support of the public. Second, we must change the mindset of parents. It is unfortunate that loving parents do their children a grave disservice if they do not basically force, through active involvement, the education of their children. Third, we must change the mindset of our children. They must want to learn for this to work.

Think about the progress of home-schooled children. They consistently score very well on placement tests and always represent themselves well in national spelling bees. That mindset must be brought back to the public schools.

Current news releases indicate that Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval has education near the top of his priority list for the upcoming legislative session. He says improving education will be part of the solution to our economic woes. I agree with him, but that isn’t going to happen overnight, nor will it be easy.

If I had access to the new governor, I would ask him what an acceptable graduation rate would be. I hope it would be well into the 90th percentile. No respectable business owner would want to move a medium- to high-tech business to Nevada where the graduation rate is near 50 percent. The first question the owner would ask is, “Where do I get qualified employees?” The second would be, “What kind of education will my employees’ children and my children get?”

The new governor needs to ferret out the reasons that our youth choose to abandon the education system. The Economic Forum may tell us how much money we have to spend this session, but much of it will be ill spent if we fail to drastically improve the quality of education and graduation rates.

• Jim Bagwell of Carson City is a Vietnam veteran and graduate of the FBI National Academy who worked 31 years in law enforcement. He and his wife Lori own Charley’s Grilled Subs.