Data and statistics suggest that high school graduates earn about $8,500 more per year than students with no high school diploma. Shelby County school district wants to see all their students graduate high school — even those who have chosen to drop out. The Diploma Recovery Project is a program designed to help recent high school students who have dropped out to come back and complete the course and credit requirements necessary to achieve a high school diploma. Shelby County is currently running a pilot program that began on January 4 using CompassLearning® software to create personalized sessions tailored to the needs of each student. Currently, 16 students are enrolled.
“I am getting a second chance instead of having to work odds-and-ends jobs,” said Nick, a student in the program. “It will help me get a job and be something better than I am now, just hanging out with my friends. I want a job to help out with the bills. There’s a big difference in wanting a job and needing one.”
The program is attracting the attention of other school districts around the state as well as state legislators and the Kentucky Department of Education.
“Education is the foundation of our economy,” said Tom Norris, executive director of The Move Learning Forward Foundation. “This is such a tremendous program for the state of Kentucky because it gives young people that felt there might not be any hope a renewed since of hope and purpose. The work Kerry Fannin and his team have done is outstanding.”
Compass Learning software assesses the students’ abilities when they enter the program and provides the courses they need to earn credits they need. The program offers online courses four nights a week at Shelby County High School — or wherever students have access to a computer. Students in attendance work on a variety of different courses at a variety of different levels, personalized to accommodate the students’ needs.
“This is really a fantastic program,” said Kerry Fannin, director of secondary schools for Shelby County. “Without the support of the school board to get this program up and running, the door to the future for these kids had been closed, and now it’s been opened.”
Fannin added, “Today’s technology is also crucial to ensuring the success of this program. Without the Compass Learning software we are using, this would have been near impossible to even consider. We have made it as convenient as possible for the students to earn their diploma.”
According to data from the Alliance for Excellent Education, approximately 16,200 students dropped out of high school in Kentucky in 2010 (nationally, this number jumps to 1.3 million). If 50 percent of those students had earned a high school diploma, the benefits would include: $68 million in increased earnings ($5.3 billion national), $121 million in increased home sales ($12 billion nationally) and 450 new jobs (37,700 new jobs nationally).
Additionally, state tax revenue would increase by $5.9 million, much more than the cost of implementing programs, such as this one, which help students finish high school with a diploma.