Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Wise Optimistic about Graduation Rates in Duval; the Superintendent Responds to Figures Showing More Dropouts, Less Graduation

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Wise Optimistic about Graduation Rates in Duval; the Superintendent Responds to Figures Showing More Dropouts, Less Graduation

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

Reversing the troubling trend of an escalating dropout rate and a declining graduation rate will be a long and difficult struggle, said Duval County Schools Superintendent Joseph Wise. His district graduated 60.5 percent of its students in 2005-06, compared to 65.5 percent the previous year. The dropout rate climbed to 6.6 percent from 5.9 percent during that same time period, according to statewide figures released last month.

Wise has established the ambitious goal of eliminating dropouts and graduating every student in four years. Though he has already thrown out some ideas related to state policy - such as raising the minimum age when students can legally drop out from 16 to 17 - Wise said the main responsibilities lie in the school system. Schools must do better to motivate, challenge and support students who are most at risk.

Last week, Wise sat down with the Times-Union to discuss the growing problem and his proposed solutions.

Here are his responses:

Recently you sat down with former Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover, who's been hired by the University of North Florida to encourage more students to attend college. How can he help you reduce dropouts and improve graduation rates?

It's paramount that we create a college-going culture in Jacksonville through every household with children. So Nat's got great leadership to bring to that. Frankly he has great expertise and also great identity to bring to it, and that has everything to do with the dropout issue. ... It's in the forming stages how he's going to work and how he's going to partner with us. We traded ideas.

You have said in the past that the other reason students drop out is because they don't see the worth in education. Who or what is most at fault: the student for being unmotivated, the teachers for not making classes interesting or the curriculum for being out of touch?

We're all at fault because it's a nationwide problem, a statewide problem, a citywide problem, a school district problem, a ZIP code problem, and a school-by-school-by-school problem. …

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