After the party, then what?

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Junior is graduating preschool.

Party!

Missy is graduating kindergarten.

Party!

Ralphy is graduating fifth grade.

Party!

Cody is graduating middle school.

Party!

Caprice is graduating high school.

PARTY!

And when we’re all done partying, what exactly do we have? Sorry to rain on the party parade, but the truth is, not much.

A week ago as its top story, this newspaper published graduation rates for all the local high schools and school districts, perhaps implying that high school graduation is a crowning achievement, the mortar board atop any reasonable Idahoans’ educational aspirations.

If that’s how you read it, shame on us.

It has now been long established that if you’re going to get anywhere in tomorrow’s world, you’ll need more than a high school education. Celebrating the successful completion of 12th grade is simply one of those nostalgic triggers that makes us feel good but promises nothing but a steep climb for the new graduate who thinks further learning is for someone else. Research strongly suggests that half of today’s jobs will disappear just a few years down the road. Any task that can be automated will be, and that’s the biggest threat imaginable to anyone armed with nothing more powerful than a high school diploma.

Rather than focus on graduation rates, go-on rates — the percentage of students continuing with vocational and technical training or pursuing college degrees — would be a better predictor of success while guaranteeing nothing. Some will correctly point out that these statistics, provided to The Press by the Idaho State Board of Education, don’t reflect the productive young adults who go on to serve in the military or on church missions, the Peace Corps or other character-building ventures. They don’t show the eventual return of students after taking time off to travel or work to save money for their further education. They do, however, lend credence to the conclusion that for thousands of our students, high school is the end of the education line.

GO-ON RATES

Coeur d’Alene District 271

2013 — 58%

2014 — 62%

2015 — 64%

2016 — 62%

Lakeland District 272

2013 — 54%

2014 — 54%

2015 — 52%

2016 — 56%

Post Falls District 273

2013 — 60%

2014 — 55%

2015 — 53%

2016 — 58%

As parents and grandparents, let’s reconsider all those premature parties. Shouldn’t we be setting higher expectations for our children and grandchildren and helping them better prepare for the world that awaits them?

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