Tribune-Courier News Editor
DRAFFENVILLE — Marshall County may be bucking a national trend of increased school dropouts and unemployment of young people.
Kentucky Youth Advocates released a report Monday showing 6.5 million teens and young adults across the nation are not enrolled in school and are not employed. 110,000 of these young people are in Kentucky.
“Building a strong future for Kentucky requires preparing today’s youth to be productive workers in adulthood,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “These young people deserve opportunities to work and to be successful, ultimately contributing to a prosperous future for the Commonwealth.”
In Kentucky, between 2000 and 2011 the number of 16-19 year-olds not in school and not employed rose by 3 percent, while the number of idle young adults ages 20-24 grew by 88 percent. For both age groups, Kentucky’s rate of disconnected youth exceeds the national rate.
At Marshall County High School, graduation rates improved from 73.6 percent in 2011 to 78.2 percent in 2012. Kem Cothran, supervisor of secondary education said her school offers a number of programs to encourage students to get their diplomas.
Marshall County High School has an in-house credit recovery program. Cothran described it as a computer-based program to allow students to make up lost credits without repeating a course.
“We also have the Star Academy, which is a smaller school setting where students receive more focus from teachers to allow them to make up lost credits,” Cothran said.
Marshall County also offers an advisor-advisee program that places smaller groups of students with a teacher to advise them on steps to take to reach graduation.
Traditional summer school, before and after school programs are also offered for students to add additional classes to make up for lost credits.
“More of our classes are technology-centered to allow students to focus on professional or industrial training,” Cothran said. “If they finish school, some students are able to go right into the workforce.”
To discourage dropouts, Cothran said the schools have a number of interventions for students.
Principals and guidance counselors speak directly to students and their parents when dropping out is contemplated.
“We want everyone to know the benefits of staying in school including how much more money can be made in the long run,” Cothran said. “Today’s job market requires a high school diploma and more.”
To encourage students towards their diploma, Cothran said schools have several programs to identify aptitude.
Schools provide mentors to tell students what education is required for a career and encourage students to pursue education in line with career goals.
For students who have left school, a second chance is available in the form of adult education. Vicki Bloodworth is director of adult and community education at the Marshall County Adult Education Center.
“Primarily what we do here is help people obtain a GED when they did not get a diploma,” Bloodworth said.
The Adult Education Center provides free tutoring in social studies, science, reading, math and writing, the five subjects in a GED test. For clients unable to attend daytime sessions, tutoring and classes are offered online and at night.
The actual GED exam is a 7.5 hour test, and must be taken at an approved testing location. The center will help schedule a test, but clients must pay for the exam themselves.
The current test costs $60. A new online version of the test will be launched in 2014 and is $120. The center works to ensure every GED taker is as prepared for the test as possible by determining strengths and weaknesses through assessments.
“We also provide tutoring and some testing for the National Career Readiness Certification, using the ACT Work Keys Assessment,” Bloodworth said.
Bloodworth said many employers use these tests in pre-hiring screenings to determine if potential workers have the skills needed for the job.
People seeking jobs can take three of these tests, including basic reading and math and applied math tests at the center.
The center also helps college-bound students with basic reading and math skills so students will not need remedial education when they arrive at college.
Through November, Bloodworth said the center has served 164 people with different programs.