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Where Talent Meets Career Opportunity

What does a career college have to do with graduating high school students? A valid question, for sure, and one that Penn Foster aims to answer as we head to the 2014 Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) Annual Conference the first week of November. At the conference Frank Britt, CEO of Penn Foster, will lead a discussion with panelists from Dorsey School on how career colleges can help more students gain access to post-secondary education.
In partnership with America's Promise, Ray McNulty, Chairman, Penn Foster High School Board, participated in a panel Penn Foster co-hosted to address the nation's state of high school graduation. Ray also serves as the Dean of Education for Southern New Hampshire University, Senior Fellow, International Leadership and Education and Chairman, National Dropout Prevention Network. The group panel discussion, hosted via Google+ hangout, aimed to detail success metrics for raising the nation's graduation rate. Below, McNulty shares his professional take on the matters discussed.   
 In today's K12 education system, there's an expectation that students master content and coursework the first time that they are exposed to the material. Credit recovery programs, like those offered by Penn Foster, provides students with who have either failed a class or fell behind for a second chance at success. Often a single course credit can stand between a student and graduation, and credit recovery enables the student to earn the single credit and graduate on time. Credit recovery is also known as a dropout-prevention strategy, summer school and even "grade forgiveness," as it's called in Florida.
Frank Britt, CEO of Penn Foster, was recently featured on The Hill's Congress Blog for lawmakers and policy professionals for his point of view on the the demand for skilled workers to fill grey collar jobs, but the lack of qualified  - and interested " workers to fill them.
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Salary increases, cash bonuses and prepaid debit cards motivate employees, but sometimes non-cash incentives can be an even greater influence on employees to be consistently sharp. QSRMagazine.com1 shares how Molly Catalano, Director of Communications and Marketing at the Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Lorton, Virginia, uses weekly, monthly and quarterly rewards programs to combat lagging performance. Structure rewards on recurring time increments to keep employees continuously engaged and on target to meet goals.
The conclusion of our "Don't Call Them Dropouts" four-part series responds to the question, "what can high schools and educators do to help increase the graduation rate and equip more young people with a high school diploma?" To start, our academic communities do have a reason to celebrate-a record 80 percent of high school students received their diploma in 2012. Although an 80 percent high school graduation rate is an exciting scholastic landmark, educational leaders aren't rejoicing wholeheartedly just yet. GradNation, a movement to end America's dropout crisis launched by America's Promise Alliance, aims to raise the graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020.
Part three of the "Don't Call Them Dropouts" series targets the group of students, known as the "Forgotten Middle," who mindlessly and idly fill classroom seats, and the virtual panel expresses concern over these overlooked, at-risk students. Jonathan Zaff, the executive director for Center for Promise, introduces the Forgotten Middle as a group of young people who haven't left the school system and who aren't chronically absent. These students are in the school building every day, yet they're not progressing. They don't cause trouble, but they're not succeeding. As Zaff puts it, they're the "fade-outs," and they need support.
"We do good things every day." That was the message that Jeff Brown, the newly minted chairman of the CCST Board of Directors, delivered as he addressed attendees during last week's Annual Business Meeting at the 2014 CCST Annual Conference. The point should be self-evident. This was a conference of educators after all and it's an intrinsic part of their job to enrich the lives of their students. However, for career colleges and private sector schools, this same logic does not always apply. The important role that the many career colleges play in our education system is too often overshadowed in the media with negative press.
Part two of our "Don't Call Them Dropouts" series spotlights the value of mentorship because for most high school non-completers, life hasn't been an easy road to navigate. Unstable home lives, little parental support, violence and abuse shape the lives of these young people, thrusting them onto a dead-end street with little guidance or opportunity. But circumstances don't have to dictate a young person's destiny. The beauty of youth is its resiliency; change is a real possibility. With help, young people can change their attitudes, change their sense of self-worth and change the future. A supportive and emotionally invested environment can transform noncompleters into high school graduates, and mentorship can lay the groundwork for this new type of environment.
Our nation's academic communities and educational advocates have undoubtedly made great strides toward graduating our high school's students. Yet, despite historic advancements, an interplay of circumstances and lack of options prevent young people from earning a high school diploma and attaining a quality education. And without a high school diploma, high school non-completers face a future without opportunity. A deficit in high school graduation rates not only impacts the lives of these individuals, it can threaten higher education, our local communities and businesses, the economy and wellbeing of our nation as a whole.

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