On the surface, recent reports that Utah had the highest high school graduation rate in the nation in 2004 sounds like good news. And it probably is. Nationally 69.9 percent of students graduated from high school the year surveyed. In Utah, the figure was 83.8.
On the other hand, that means more than 16 percent of Utah students dropped out without a high school diploma. Most disturbing is the fact the graduation rate for minority students was significantly lower, although in most instances, Utah's minorities still exceeded national averages.
Fortunately, this is an issue that is not being ignored. A number of positive efforts undertaken in Utah are addressing concerns. We think of the K-3 reading initiative and extended-day Kindergarten to name two. In time, these programs will pay dividends. As controversial as it is, studies suggest the No Child Left Behind Act is having a positive impact. And Utah's UPASS initiative is requiring educators to emphasize basic competency skills.
In KSL's view, the focus on academic improvement must remain resolute. With so many students entering adult life without basic educational skills, society cannot get too caught up in the fact the glass is almost full, when so many young people, especially among minority populations, are not in the glass.