Commonwealth Journal

Local News

March 24, 2013

Somerset schools ahead of dropout legislation

City already has program in place to encourage students to graduate at 18

Somerset —  

A new state law that will eventually raise the dropout age from 16 to 18 is sliding right in line with  existing efforts in the Somerset School System to keep students in the classroom as long as possible.
“There’s been an alternative track in existence at Somerset High School for some years,” said Somerset Schools Superintendent Boyd Randolph. “Those students whose lives have circumstances beyond their control ... if school gets to be a distraction in life, we try to make school fit into their environment.”
That program has been expanded, and SHS Principal Wesley Cornett and his staff have made it their goal to reach out to as many students as possible who are at-risk of dropping out of school.
Right now, as per state law, they can stop attending school with a parent’s consent at age 16. That means a student can drop out of school before senior year. 
But after five years of several lawmakers pushing for a higher dropout age, Governor Steve Beshear this week signed Senate Bill 97, which will allow individual school districts to raise the dropout age to 18 on a voluntary basis. Once 55 percent of the 174 districts have done so, it would become mandatory for all other districts to follow suit within four years.
That new law works hand-in-hand with Somerset’s efforts, according to Cornett.
“I was personally glad to see it happen,” said Cornett. “To me, what better way to invest your money than with kids?”
Cornett said SHS currently has a “credit recovery” program, during which students who have dropped out or fallen significantly behind can opt for an alternative route. The route is student-paced, is delivered through a computer program closely adhering to national academic content standards, and its overseen by an SHS staff member. The program can only be accessed at SHS to ensure students are receiving the education they need to graduate. 

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