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Concept ties college, success to preschool

An important question came up recently: Does Lawrence County need a P-16?

Don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t a fancy robot or a high-flying airplane. The P-16 in this case refers to a P-16 council.

Still confused? Let me explain. The “P” stands for preschool. The “16” represents the pinnacle of a college education.

But that isn’t the whole equation. The “dash” might be the most important part, symbolizing all that comes between in those formative educational years.

In a nutshell, a P-16 council is a group of educators, business leaders and community members who want to make a difference in the lives of all the youth who go through the region’s educational system. The goal is to ensure that there is a seamless transition through the entire educational process, from the cradle to a career.

It is a model that has been successful across the state and across the entire nation.

The KnowlegeWorks Foundation, an educational philanthropic organization, may sum the concept up perfectly.

“Creating a more integrated, seamless education system — fixing the leaks in the pipeline so that fewer students get lost at the transitions from one learning level to another — is the goal of P-16 councils being established in communities across the country.”

Ohio’s educational system has made tremendous strides in recent years, and southern Ohio is no different.

But the system certainly isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Many flaws still exist and sometimes things slip through the cracks. Out of every 100 ninth graders in Ohio, only 38 percent enter college and a mere 17 percent graduate.

The problem is that it is people who are slipping through the cracks and everyone deserves to have the greatest chance possible to succeed in life.

And that concept is at the heart of the push to create a P-16 council here, an effort that will be headed up by the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce.

Many questions remain and this group has only begun to determine the questions, let alone the answers.

Is this needed here? What are the areas that should be emphasized? How can parents get involved? Will the school districts and educators embrace the concept?

One principle that seems to hold true in almost all P-16 organizations is that change and commitment to making a difference must start at the local level. State-pushed initiatives often die on the vine because they lack community buy in.

And that will be the key to determining if a P-16 group can find and address needs in southern Ohio. The diverse groups are brought together because it is this wide-approach that will help the community take ownership in the project and help it succeed.

The proof is there: Children may be playing with blocks and crayons but it is important that these items transition smoothly to pencils, calculators and stethoscopes.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.