Otis Sanford: Continuing graduation trend won’t be easy, but well worth the effort

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Throughout his nearly seven years in office, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has made education a top priority. So naturally Haslam felt justified in taking a bow last week after reports were released that suggest high school graduation rates continue to climb.

Statewide, the rate was 89.1 percent for the school year that ended in May. It was reportedly the highest on record. Locally, most suburban school districts finished above the state average. Arlington High School led the pack with a nearly 97 percent graduation rate followed by Collierville, Bartlett and Germantown`s Houston High. Shelby County Schools also posted a modest increase for a rate of 79.6 percent. The Achievement School District, which consists of schools at the bottom in academic achievement, posted a 12 point jump from the previous year.

All of the increases, no matter how small, are significant, because the Haslam administration has made it easier for hundreds of graduating seniors to continue their education at community colleges and technical schools.

That bodes well for job creation, recruitment and Tennessee`s overall economy.

The challenge now is for the progress to continue. Shelby County Schools has a goal of reaching a 90 percent graduation rate by 2025. Getting there will take an aggressive plan to attack poverty, reduce truancy and improve classroom performance. It won`t be easy, but the end results make it well worth the effort.