Fewer students in our state are giving up on a high school education, a positive sign for South Carolina’s future. According to the S.C. Department of Education, the dropout rate across the state, including the Aiken County School District, has significantly dropped over the past four years.

Declining dropout rates will hopefully translate into higher graduation rates, a key marker of the success of our state’s education system. In Aiken County, our education leaders have wisely focused on giving a better footing to incoming freshmen to help them succeed later in school. Freshman academies instituted at our schools give a better foundation, allowing a transitional year with extra attention and support for new students.

Aiken County is also aiming to offer additional instruction to help students at all grade levels through the Center for Innovative Learning at Pinecrest.

An alternative facility, it provides students an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in one or more courses in order to give them a better chance of finishing high school. The school has made strides through the district’s effort. According to the school’s principal Ben Osborne, it served 650 students this year, and 515 went back to their regular home schools. The efforts of Aiken County and school districts throughout the state should be commended, particularly for implementing such programs that appear to be making a solid impact.

South Carolina’s legislature also recently expanded the state’s virtual education program, providing students another avenue for credit recovery, in addition to being able to take classes that may otherwise not be offered at their school.

The S.C. Senate is considering a bill intended to improve students’ chances for academic success by ensuring they can read by the fourth grade. The legislature will continue to debate the bill when it returns in January. Those efforts would move the state in the right direction when it comes to education, especially when combined with recent additional funding for summer reading camps and the expansion of 4-year-old kindergarten for low-income families.

Such a commitment by local and state officials as well as our students shows South Carolina is on a path of success for future generations.