Many of us may not realize that reading is a critical bridge to success in school, work and life. Children generally are learning to read until third grade. By the fourth grade, they should be reading to learn. After that, coursework gets harder and reading becomes more challenging. Students who don't read well have increasing difficulty keeping up. This can lead to bad grades, disengaging from school, and dropping out. In fact, children who aren't reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school.
In today's downturned economy with a high unemployment rate, prospective employees need all the credentials they can get in a highly competitive job market. Having a high school diploma is no longer optional, as it was for three generation's past, but it is necessary. Over their lifetime, high school graduates earn 74% more than those who drop out. High school graduation is the single most powerful predictor of whether a young person coming from generations of poverty will break the cycle.
A "real" diploma based on rigorous curriculum matters because the jobs of the future demand a workforce with skills aligned with a knowledge-based economy. As a state we must work not only to increase the number of real diplomas, but also to see that all students receive one. The good news is that graduation rates are actually on the rise in West Virginia. As a result, the state is on track for the first time to achieve an 85% graduation rate by the class of 2020.