Educators, business leaders, and philanthropists are backing an initiative in Springfield Massachusetts to combat a problem that confounds many urban schools: a low high school graduation rate.
A public awareness campaign using mass media, social media, and peer pressure will reach out to families and adults responsible for children in Springfield to encourage daily school attendance. Educators say frequent absenteeism is an early indicator that a student will struggle in school and fail to graduate. Springfield Public School Superintendent Daniel Warwick said the city’s high school graduation rate increased from 52.1 percent in 2011 to 56.6 percent in 2012.
The graduation rate for all Massachusetts public schools last year was 84.7 percent. The national high school graduation rate was 78.2 percent.
Warwick said the schools have taken steps in recent years to address high truancy and dropout rates, but he said increasing the four year high school graduation rate will take more than school programs alone.
With dozens of students looking on Monday morning inside the brand new Putnam Vocational Technical High School, the leaders of the initiative unveiled the campaign titled “ Show Up. Every Day. It Matters. Stay in School.” There are public service announcements in both English and Spanish. One features Governor Deval Patrick.
Dora Robinson, the CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley, which partnered with the public schools to develop the campaign said the goal is to raise the graduation rate to 77.4 percent in three years.
Jeffrey Ciuffreda, the president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield said businesses support the initiative because the local economy can’t grow without an educated workforce
To deliver the stay in school message the campaign will feature adults like Dolly Ortiz ,who did not finish high school and regrets it.
And, students like Ariana Williams ,who is planning to graduate from high school this year and go on to college, will apply peer pressure
The stay in school campaign has partnered with the Davis Foundation and its initiative to improve early childhood literacy in Springfield by encouraging parents to read daily to their children.