Program Is Ready To Help With Graduation Crisis

by Donna McCollum

A new study calls it a graduation crisis. And the problem may be worse than people thought because Texas inflates its high school graduation numbers. That won't happen at a program helps drop outs get caught up. It begins when children are four years old.

Head Start's community resource fair is designed to help parents help their children learn. Yet Project Turnaround, another program on the Nacogdoches head start campus is well aware of the growing graduation crisis. They serve high school dropouts who leave school primarily for one reason.   "Discipline problem. Many of them had severe discipline problems in school," says Patrick Sanders who gets parents involved in their child's education.

This illustrates why the agency works so hard developing a strong foundation for youngsters. A weak foundation is difficult to repair. "We've only had 7 or 8 graduates each year. However we have had probably 30 to 40 students into the program each year," shared Sanders. There are programs designed to break the dropout cycle.  Right now University of Texas, the Texas Education Agency and Texas Workforce are offering an intervention program.   Education consultant Sarah Cole said, "We are working with not only head start teachers, but we also work Title 1 pre k teachers in the school districts and also with child care facilities."

But something as basic as free literacy guides given to parents can make a lifetime difference. Family involvement is often the best way to get a child a diploma. Head Start director Weldon Beard said, "So many times head start gets labeled, but this opportunity to see we actually do a whole lot of different things with the family, the children's families. We're a family development program."

And the agency isn't about to fudge on graduation rates. Sanders said, "The thing we do here at Project Turnaround and Head Start is if we can change the life of one person that's a success. We take it one person at a time."