On Page One of the Jan. 10 edition, we published a story titled “County’s high school graduation rates increase.” According to a report by the Utah State Office of Education, high schools in the Tooele County School District graduated a higher percentage of their students during 2012 than the state average. By how much? A good margin.
According to the USOE report, the statewide graduation average for last year was 78 percent. Tooele County’s was an impressive 12 points higher at 90 percent. Of Utah’s 41 school districts, only five had a higher average than 90 percent during 2012. Just as astounding, the county’s 90 percent figure for last year is nine-percentage-points higher than its 2011 graduation average.
The report also included specific 2012 graduation stats on every high school in the county. Tooele High School had the highest at 96 percent; Stansbury and Wendover High Schools both had 93 percent; Grantsville High School 89 percent; and Blue Peak High School 77 percent. All were above or near the state average, and the 2010-2011 national graduation average of 79 percent.
Such local graduation numbers aren’t just good news — they’re great news. Any community that can claim such elevated high school graduation numbers has much in its favor. The big pluses are obvious and well known: High school graduates typically enjoy more positive options in their lives, like eligibility for higher education, and better employment and career advancement. In the short and long term, they also typically make more money than students who drop out of high school. There are stories about high school dropouts who made it big, but they are always the exception, never the norm.
In fact, the National Dropout Prevention Center says that failing to graduate from high school will affect a person’s ability to financially support themselves and their families before and after they retire. The statistics are clear that greater financial success, and a person’s ability to positively contribute to society, is closely linked to how much education one has learned and puts to good use. Earning a high school diploma is where it all begins.
But there’s another reason why Tooele County School District’s exceptional high school graduation average is so important. Companies, regardless of size and category of business, which are looking to relocate or expand, prudently and deeply examine the quality of the area’s available workforce. Before coming in and opening their doors, they want to know if they’ll have educated, skilled and eager workers who will do the job reliably and competitively. A community with a healthy graduation average sends a strong message to inquiring businesses that its residents highly value education, and understand that a worthwhile life includes meaningful work done well.
Furthermore, such businesses want to know if higher education and vocational training is locally available for the workforce to continually improve after high school. Because of the Tooele Campus of Utah State University, the Tooele Applied Technology Center and the Community Learning Center, much of what is needed to help keep a local workforce competitive is right here.
Tooele County needs to attract new business to employ its citizens and further diversify its economic base. With the area’s high graduation average, local economic development initiatives have something powerful to promote. The Tooele County School District, its educators, employees, and mostly its students, are thanked and extolled for a job well done. Better days for Tooele County may be just ahead.