Pinkerton Academy is working to close the gap between students who further their education and those who don’t.
Chris Harper, academic dean at Pinkerton, recently discussed the school’s acceptance rate for college and other post-secondary programs and how the school is working to increase it.
The latest comprehensive data, on the Class of 2008, shows 71 percent of that class’s graduates furthering their education, whether in four-year or two-year colleges. That breaks down to 58 percent in four-year schools and 13 percent in two-year or community colleges, Harper said. New Hampshire was at 64 percent and the national average, 67 percent.
Of students enrolled in four-year institutions, 95 percent return for a second year, Harper said. Of students in two-year schools, 71 percent return. “So an average of 89 percent of our kids stay for a second year,” he said. “I am very proud of them.” The school beats New Hampshire at 80 percent and the nation at 78 percent, according to data charts.
Harper attributed the retention rate to several factors: Pinkerton’s rigorous program of study; its efforts to help students prepare for college, including a new “senior math” program to help kids brush up on fundamentals; and the junior and senior essays, which are “major research papers.” He’s had students come back from their freshman year and say, “We were assigned a three-page report, and I did it in no time.”
The school’s five-year plan is essential to keep students in school, Harper said. They don’t just look at the four years of high school, but the first year after graduation. “What we want to do is to have students have a goal,” he said. “The goal may change, but we want them to constantly have aspirations, and move toward those aspirations.”
The school wants to create a path through high school that is effective and efficient, Harper said. “We don’t want surprises” – for example, a student reaching his or her senior year and deciding, “I want to go into nursing!” It can be done, Harper said, but it can be done more easily with a program of Pinkerton courses that will prepare the student for nursing school.
Harper doesn’t know why kids drop out. “I’m not usually privy to that information,” he said. Tracking the Class of 2006, he learned that 70 percent were still in college or had graduated. Nineteen percent never entered post-secondary education, but chose to enter the workplace or the military, and 17.6 percent went to college but did not finish. Anecdotally, he said, they don’t finish because of financial concerns or family issues.
“We’re trying to work on the 19 percent that didn’t go and the 17 percent that didn’t finish,” he said.
Today’s students have another option, the focused “career school,” such as cosmetology school, and Pinkerton recently promoted these with a “career school fair.”
Why is it important for students to continue their education? “High school is a great place, a great beginning,” Harper said. “But the job opportunities for someone with only a high school education they’re minimal.”