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Study shows about half of area high school graduates at least start college

August 05, 2003|HERB BROCK

If past trends hold up, about half the members of the Class of 2003 at eight area high schools will be heading off to college over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, a fourth or more of their classmates are going to work, and most of the rest are in vocational-technical schools, work-school programs or the military. A handful of about 5 percent or so of the class will not be going to school, working, serving in the military or doing anything else.

What Kentucky's high school graduates do in the fall after their commencement exercises has been the subject of an annual study by the state Department of Education that attempts to monitor their "transition" to life after high school, or at least the first few months of it. Figures were not listed for the area's ninth high school, at the Kentucky School for the Deaf

The department last week released its study of the Class of 2002 and, according to area high school guidance counselors, the figures contained in the report for the eight local schools generally reflect transition trends of recent years. And the data for last year's high school graduates are fairly close to statewide statistics for the class.

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The department collects the data from high school guidance counselors, who follow a two-step process. The first step comes at graduation time in the spring when the counselors ask each graduate to state what their plans are for the fall. The second step comes from September to mid-October in the fall when the counselors track down each student or contact a family member to find out what the graduates ended up doing.

For the state as a whole, 48.4 percent of the Class of '02 were enrolled as of mid-October, 2002, at two- or four-year colleges in the state and 5.9 percent were attending out-of-state colleges. Of the rest, 26.7 percent were employed; 6.8 percent were in work-school programs; 5.1 percent were in vo-tech programs; 2.8 percent were in the military; and 4.3 percent reported no activity.

While the state data generally was reflected in the reports for the area's 916 members of the Class of '02, there were some schools that deviated from the averages.

Boyle County closely mirrors statewide data

The area school that most closely mirrored the statewide data was Boyle County High School. Of Boyle's 182 graduates in 2002, 48.4 percent were in in-state colleges; 6 percent were in out-of-state colleges; 5.5 percent were in voc-tech schools; 5.5 percent were in the military; 24.2 percent were working; 6 percent were in work-school programs; and 4.4 percent reported no activity.

At the opposite ends of the spectrum were the '02 grads from Danville and Harrodsburg high schools. Danville had by far the highest percentage of its grads attending college - 60 percent of the 108 grads were in in-state colleges and 14.8 percent were in out-of-state colleges - while Harrodsburg had the lowest as 34.2 percent of its 38-member class were enrolled in in-state colleges and 2.6 percent were in out-of-state colleges.

"Our college attendance figures have been high for years. There's a long college preparatory tradition here at Danville," said Danville guidance counselor Nellie Shelton. "In fact, the tradition sometimes puts pressure on some kids who really aren't interested in college or don't need college for what they want to do to go and enroll somewhere because 'everybody else is doing it.'"

Meanwhile, the Harrodsburg Class of 2002 had the highest percentage of area grads who were employed as 50 percent were working. In contrast, 14.8 percent of the Danville grads were working, which was one of the lowest figures.

By and large, area counselors are satisfied with the data for their respective schools, but several indicated the figures can be misleading and suggest the state needs to include follow-up reports on at least a representative sample of graduates.

"The report is a pretty good reflection of a school's ability to educate its students and effect a successful transition into the so-called real world after high school," said Doug Lester, guidance counselor at Boyle. "And I think, as far as the transition to college figure is concerned, our total of 52 percent for the 2002 class is a good percentage.

"But a successful transition isn't just going to college," Lester said. "It can be entering the military or going to a voc-tech program or a work-school program. It also can mean getting a job and, therefore, a jump on entering that real world."

Sherry Brady, guidance counselor at Casey County High School, agrees. Of Casey's 119 '02 grads, nearly 50 percent were in college, while 36.1 percent were employed; 2.5 percent each were in the military and voc-tech-schools; 4.2 percent in work-school programs; and 5 percent were not active.

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