Improving education in Dougherty County - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Improving education in Dougherty County

October 17, 2006

Albany--Close to 17,000 students learn in the Dougherty County school system, but too many of them aren't succeeding.

City and school leaders say more involvement from parents could help change that.

Tuesday, Albany Mayor Willie Adams hosted an education forum to give parents, teachers, and community leaders a chance to voice their concerns.

Parent Danielle Blackwell says schools simply need more money.

"My daughter is in French class, and they have to share books. There's not enough books for her to take home. I mean, that's something small that can be eradicated by some funds," she says.

But in order for students to reach their potential, education leaders say schools need more community involvement.

"We have to as a community come together and work on that. We need to have good solid daycare that offers a pre-education to education. We need children to come into first grade with a vocabulary in excess of 3,000 words," says state board of education member Peggy Nielson.

She says more parental involvement will improve student achievement.

"Parents have to come parent conferences and support what educators are doing,

"Education is the life blood to success and a good life," says forum organizer and mayor Willie Adams. 

He says without raising Dougherty County's educational bar, the city's economic success is at risk.

"When we start trying to recruit businesses, one of the first things they look for is the educational system, they look to see what the quality of the education system," says Adams.

He says more businesses will locate in Albany if the school dropout rate goes down. Superintendent Sally Whatley agrees that's a major concern.

"Our graduation rate, we're still struggling," she says.

But she says the district is making progress.

"We've significantly decreased our drop out rate from 7.5 percent to 5.4 percent over the last five years. We've increased our attendance trend.  This past year, we had almost 93 percent of our children having 15 or fewer days absence," she says.

There's no easy fix, but school leaders have faith that students will rise above any obstacles before them.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, our students can compete with any other students anywhere," says Whatley.

"Do I believe all students in Dougherty county can graduate, you bet I do! If we can do all these other things we can do that to," says Nielson.

The state is putting graduation coaches in each high school to curb the dropout rate.  Dougherty County school leaders may also expand a dropout prevention program called I-Care program that is currently available only at Monroe High School.

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