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Curbing the High School Drop Out Rate

Hundreds of high schoolers are thinking about quitting class! A new report shows that the number of dropouts is on the rise.
Hundreds of high schoolers are thinking about quitting class! A new report shows that the number of dropouts is on the rise. In Arkansas, the news is better with 74 percent of freshmen make it to graduation. That puts the state in the top half of the country.

In 2007 Johns Hopkins University named three Little Rock high schools “drop out factories.”  The Little Rock School District disagrees with the title and is fighting back to show it is untrue. One way to do that is give students a new way to learn and show what they know.

This time last year 18 year old Steven Higginbotham had everything but school on his mind.

"I was just cutting up a little bit and not being serious. But I'm 18, I need to grow up so it was time for me to get serious with it," Higginbotham says.

He was at risk of dropping out.  His classmate Aleshia Morrow was in the same boat. After moving around so much she got behind in her classes.

"At first I was slacking off with friends," Morrow said.

So both of them enrolled in the Accelerated Learning Center in Little Rock. At-risk students get a chance to work at their own pace and catch up on classes they're behind in.

"I come about 6 {hours} but it's a minimum of 4 hours a day. Why do you come more? I come more so I can get my work done so I can graduate," Higginbotham told us.

Experts say it’s harder for dropouts to find good work. More and more jobs these days require at least a high school diploma.

"If you hire someone on the front end who you know is qualified for that job, you're going to have a lot less turnover in that company," says Kimberly Friedman with the Department of Workforce Services.  "All employers want someone who can read, write, do information, locate information."

That's why the Career Readiness Certificate was developed this year. Even if you didn't graduate from high school you can get one to show a potential boss you have the skills needed to get a job.

"Some jobs don't necessarily require a college education, but they still need someone who can read, write, and do math," Friedman added.
 
Regardless, Higginbotham is staying on his p's and q's because he doesn't want to be classified as a dropout.

"I'm trying to make my family proud and get the best job I can get."
 
About 250 students are enrolled at the Accelerated Learning Center. About 80 to 100 of them are on track to graduate this year.

The national high school graduation rate recently fell from 85 percent to 70 percent. Arkansas' rate is 74.2 percent, but right now, there's controversy brewing on exactly how the state's graduation rate should be calculated.
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