BUFFALO, Mo. -- The national high school graduation rate is at its highest level in decades. Experts call it a sign of a weak economy, but educators claim it as a success story.
Seventy-eight percent of students are now finishing high school on time. Educators say this spike is no accident.
Mindy Lawless and Justine Lacey are Buffalo High School seniors. They spend several hours every week helping elementary kids and working at a clinic.
“I like being around little kids,” said Justine.
It's all part of the Missouri Options program.
“You have a lot of responsibly but it's worth it all,” said Justine.
“I was really behind and I know, if I did not have this class, I would not have an option and I would not be able to graduate,” said Mindy.
“A lot of times, a classroom setting does not work for these kids,” said Dan Dryer, an instructor for Missouri Options.
Justine and Mindy are studying for the GED test. Within the last few years, more than 60 Dallas County School District students have graduated from alternative programs.
“The number one seller of this program is, when they graduate in May, they will walk across the stage like everybody else and get a Buffalo High School diploma,” said Dryer.
Expansions of vocational schools, tutoring programs and attendance incentives have contributed to the national graduation spike. Last year, 87 percent of Buffalo students graduated. That's the highest rate since 2005.
There's another factor in the equation.
“The economy very much has had a lot to do with this,” said Dryer. “It's very, very tough. We are seeing more kids staying in career center classes, finishing out, trying to learn a skill, because it's tough. There are no jobs locally here for these students to get in.”
“I really needed this,”
Both Mindy and Justine have plans for higher education, because they had this boost.
“I'm going to go to OTC, I think,”
Missouri's graduation rate is at 84 percent, which is above the national average.
Here's the federal report on graduatjion rates.