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Graduation coaches help students with final chance
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For the next couple of weeks, Veronica Harris will step up her focus on seniors preparing for the Georgia High School Graduation Test.
It will be their last opportunity to pass the required tests to graduate in May.
Harris is available to coach them on.
Beginning in 11th grade, students have five opportunities to pass all four portions of the GHSGT. If they do not pass by the end of 12th grade, they don't get a high school diploma with their class and are not permitted to participate in commencement.
Harris is Liberty County High School's first graduation coach, part of a state-mandated program introduced last year.
She fears GHSGT failures prod some students to consider quitting school.
And according to Steve Dolinger, president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, young people without diplomas make the whole county suffer, particularly in economic development.
Earlier this year Dolinger came from his Atlanta office for a presentation at the Chamber of Commerce's Progress through People Luncheon.
"Every year we got close to 30,000 kids who don't graduate on time. That means they're not ready to come work for you," Dolinger said. "They're not the skilled labor that we need in our workforce."
He explained how some think they do not have to finish school to find a job.
"For so long, it was OK for kids to drop out of high school," Dolinger said.
"Those jobs aren't there, but that mentality is still there."
He also reported "80 percent of kids in prison don't have a high school diploma."
Dolinger described the high school dropout trend as a domino effect, affecting the future generations.
"If they're not literate, how are they (high school dropouts) as parents," Dolinger asked. "We all know mom's the first teacher, but is mom the best first teacher?"
Dolinger did not overlook the effects of the GHSGT on dropout rates and included information in a slide show presentation about patterns in the test scores.
"This became a real barrier test, we'd have a whole lot kids from a whole lot of counties not graduate from high school," he said.
"A transition is going to come about in the next few years when we're going to move away from the high school graduation test, that kids have to pass to graduate, to end-of-course tests."
As graduation coach, Harris said she discusses "quality of life with and without a high school diploma," to those considering quitting school.
"If the student seems insistent, and is of age, we let them know about alternative programs that have an educational focus such as Ombudsman, Job Core and Youth Challenge," she said.
The high school is putting resources in place so students can pass the GHSGT.
"Schedule changes were made so that, where possible, 12th grade students who have not passed the science GHSGT have been placed in a science class," Harris explained.
A "predictor test" is also given to 11th graders to gauge their preparation before the actual GHSGT.
"The goal is to use the scores to ensure that we meet the needs of the students during our in-school tutoring," Harris said.
LCHS also participates in a national dropout prevention program.
"We have a faculty and staff willing to volunteer planning and personal time to suggest and implement interventions," Harris said.
Starting on Tuesday, Harris said the school will provide transportation for after-school tutoring until March 20. The GHSGT will be administered at both of the county's high schools on March 24.
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