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82% of Shelby students in college for Year 2

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Nearly 2 in 3 go to school; retention rate double state’s

By Todd Martin

Shelby County Public Schools is sending students to college at greater rate than the state average, but the district really is excelling in keeping students there.

According to the Kentucky High School Feedback Report released early this week, Shelby sent 63.3 percent, or 429, of its 2010-11 seniors to college in the 2011-12 school year, compared to 60.2 percent of the state.

The report – which is compiled by the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics – however, goes on to show that only 52 percent of students statewide who were freshmen in college during the 2010-11 school year attended both semesters that first year, and only 46 percent returned for their second year.

But Shelby County’s numbers show that 82 percent of students returned for that second year in 2011-12.

“That’s a very encouraging number,” SCPS Superintendent James Neihof said. “I think, if we’re able to stay in excess of sixty percent of our students staying in college and graduating, then we’ll be way ahead of many.”

This is especially encouraging for Shelby County, because the same report shows that less than 14 percent of the county’s adults have earned a bachelor’s degree and only 9 percent have earned a graduate or professional degree, although both lead the state averages of 12.1 percent and 8.2, respectively.

Neihof said that in a recent meeting with officials from the universities of Louisville and Western Kentucky that was a surprising topic.

“Even with all the work universities are doing with remedial classes, their dropout rates are still phenomenal,” he said. “My take on that is that we need to do more early college-type of education to get students better prepared. That’s something I’m asking our Strategic Leadership Team to look at.”

Neihof said many steps the district has taken and are preparing for the near future are to try to help students not only become better prepared to go to college, but also better prepared to stay in college.

“We want to do both,” he said. “Universities lament the fact that students are not prepared, and not just with academic skills, but with what they want to when they get there. That’s why we want kids to understand their aptitudes – where they fit – and get them thinking about what they’re good at and what might be meaningful to them in the future.”

That’s the theory behind the district’s move to get students into career clusters as freshman, and introducing them to different fields and clusters through an eighth-grade Career Exploration class.

“We want to build students toward selecting a pathway in the spring,” Neihof said. “There will be flexibility, and we understand when we hear community members say that not all students will go to college.

“We understand that, but we want all our students to graduate with the necessary skills to go to college if they change their mind. And, something I’ve said from the beginning, it takes the same set of skill to be successful in the workforce straight out of school as it does to go to college.”

Neihof said another area in which the district will continue to see growth is through students becoming career ready.

“That’s something that we just didn’t measure a few years ago,” he said. “We recently had twenty-one students already pass career tests in our Culinary Arts program at Collins, and some were even juniors. That doesn’t mean their college ready, but if they chose, that is a pathway they’re ready to go down once they graduate.”