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Monday, March 5, 2012

Scioto Education Needs

 Socioeconomic Profile of Scioto County with
Comparison to Ohio and the United States, 2000.

Socioeconomic Measure                          Scioto County       Ohio          U.S.

Median Household Income                                 $28,008              $40,956       $41,994

Families Below Poverty Level                              15.2%                 7.8%            9.2%

Female-headed Households with Children <18       7.5%                  7.3%            7.2%

Educational Attainment (Ages 25+)

No High School Diploma                                     25.9%                 17.0%         19.6%

High School Graduate (incl. equivalency)              39.9%                 36.1%         28.6%

Some College, No Degree                                   18.0%                  19.9%         21.1%

Associate's Degree                                               6.1%                   5.9%           6.3%

Bachelor's Degree                                                 6.4%                  13.7%         15.5%

Master's/Professional Degree or Higher                 3.7%                   7.5%            8.9%

Source: Census 2000 Demographic Profiles. U.S. Census Bureau, Summary File 1 (SF1) and Summary File 3 (SF3).

Figures For Scioto County and Ohio (2006-2010)

High school graduates pct of persons ages 25+. 2006-2012

                                   Scioto County                                            Ohio

                                        81.2%                                                    87.4%

Bachelor's degree or higher, pct of persons age 25+, 2006-2010

                                        12.7%                                                   24.1%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

I graduated from Valley High School in Lucasville, Ohio in 1969. Valley is a small rural Scioto County district in Southern Ohio. Our graduating class number slightly under 100.  As a teenager, I remember the tremendous pressure from guidance counselors and instructors emphasizing the need to attend college and complete, at minimum, a bachelor's degree. Push the preps was on. 

Granted then you could drop out of school at age 16; few pregnant teenage girls were encouraged to complete high school; vocational training was on the near horizon; and the Vietnam draft was in full force. Still, the technology "race" with the Soviet Union had heated up with Sputnik and continued through my years in school. American students were taught the necessity of pursuing higher education in the face of the space race and the Cold War. We definitely took pride in completing accomplishments before the Evil Empire of Communism copied our technology.

Study the information above from the U.S. Census Bureau. Numbers of Scioto County residents have increased their educational status in significant ways since the 2000 Census.

For example, in 2000, 25.9% of people 25 years and older
 did not graduate from high school
or obtain a GED 
compared to 18.8% from 2006-2010.

And, only 6.4% of those 25 years and older
had a bachelor's degree in 2000
compared to 12.7% from 2006-2010.

The news is good; however, the news must be compared to Ohio and national statistics in the same categories. Scioto must work harder to increase the number of both high school graduates and college graduates although it has a population with a high number of families below the median household income levels and below acceptable poverty levels.

The level of educational attainment in a county affects so many other areas -- jobs, wages, crime, real estate values, health standards and drug addiction to name a few. I am not a sociologist or an economics expert by any means but as an educator for many years, I witnessed the transformation of many young people as they took the challenge and exerted the effort to further their educations and complete rigorous college majors.

The level of maturity that high school graduates attain as they enter college and pursue their programs rises significantly as they become independent in a controlled environment. They learn life skills by necessity and discover soon that study and commitment often means more than sterling ACT scores.

Even when teens believe they have chosen a major well but change majors in college (And this happens often. I know, I did -- from Journalism to Secondary English Ed.), they usually find new paths to success. In other words, they realistically face decisions of completing a degree that best suits their needs and skills. The degree, a piece of paper, is a key to unlocking so many doors of opportunity post college. It is not a guarantee of success but a means to achieving success.

Education is the biggest need in Scioto County. I know what you are going to say: "Look at the poor conditions of so many residents. College is expensive and so many young people have no chance to attend." Yet, you are the same people claiming the poor have better access to grants and assistance to attend college than the middle class family strapped with bills and other expenses.

In most cases, teens can attend college or technical training even if funds are lacking. If there is a strong will and a significant commitment, there is a way. I have seen these teens enroll, attend, and graduate college. I make it a point to tell them how proud I am of them, pointing out the extra credit they deserve for their accomplishments when they weren't born with a "silver spoon in their mouths."

I do understand that a college diploma will likely leave students in some heavy debt, but the total payback is significant over their lifetime. The degree will raise their standard of living while increasing their salaries. Collectively these educated people will better all aspects of their community.

Right now, the additional problem many Scioto college graduates face is that they must leave their homes to pursue jobs. It's true. Scioto loses the majority of their best human resources when this happens. So, is it the chicken or the egg? Which comes first -- good jobs in the county or education in the county?

There is no question to me because the individual child must attempt to better himself/herself by the best means possible. Without developing a positive attitude towards education and a desire to further their studies, children will be stuck in the mire without a chance of moving. Can we afford to wait on the promises of plants and industries moving into our area and creating huge opportunities for employment? I don't think so, and I don't think you help your teen plan his/her future on hope and speculation. I pray Scioto experiences a jobs explosion but the outlook is definitely bleak. 

I taught high school seniors for 27 years. The first day of class when my seniors were fresh from the joys of summer break, I told them,

"Start preparing for college next year today. You are not a senior high school student in my eyes. You have one foot out of the door of high school today and one foot on the road to college. ACTs will be given very soon. Here is your application for the exam. Take it today, fill it out and turn it in.

"The first six weeks we are going to work on raising your ACT English usage skills, take profiles to discover your best skills, and talk with many college representatives. In addition, you only have a couple of months until you need to be accepted by the college, so take your allotment of personal days for college campus visits -- see the guidance counselor and order a personal catalog from all colleges of interest. Right now you represent thousands of dollars as a resource for colleges, so you need to take advantage of every opportunity to attend. The first of next year you must file financial aid applications; do so promptly and correctly. "I meant to do it" is no excuse for college age adults.

"Mom and dad are going to be helpful, but, in my eyes, you seniors are adults on the verge of making one of the most important decisions, if not the most important decision in your life. Here is a schedule of what you must accomplish in each month this year to make your transition to college.

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven't become too serious about school until this year, remember -- this is the sweetest and yet the most challenging year of your educational career. Start today to insure your dreams of tomorrow. Keep your attendance and disciplinary records immaculate and your senior grades as high as possible. Also, if you don't have a daily study routine, start one today. It will serve you well in college. Use all your resources to help you on your way. Good luck."

That is the little speech I wish I would have heeded more closely in 1969. Experience is the best teacher. Pointing out the best road and helping students place a foot on that path are the jobs of a teacher. 

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