Fewer dropouts

A group of education and community leaders in Cape Girardeau has been meeting for the past year to identify ways to improve Central High School's graduation rate (it was 72.3 percent in 2009). The United Way of Southeast Missouri-sponsored Education Solutions Team is ready to take its findings and its proposals to a wider audience. The first of these was principals and administrators in the district last week. Other scheduled meetings include one Feb. 22 with the school board, Feb. 23 with teachers and March 19 at a conference to be held at Southeast Missouri State University.

Central's graduation rate is below the statewide average of 85 percent for 2009. The high school's principal, Dr. Mike Cowan, has a goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2013, and he would like to see 90 percent of graduates attending college or a technical school. That's an ambitious goal that ties in with the the Education Solution Team's efforts.

The team has focused on whose responsibility -- schools, family, community or a combination -- it is to address critical needs that have been identified.

Lowering dropout rates is complex and can be frustrating when dealing with factors over which there is little control. But doing nothing isn't an option.