Garber: Grad rate encouraging |

Pictured from left to right are Stephen Colaw, Vanessa Drummond, Ginger Griffin, Ann Olegsby (Phillips 66), George Halkiades, Martin Garber, H.J.Reed (Phillips 66), and Jenny Brown (Phillips 66)

Members of Bartlesville Education Promise are encouraged that the number of Bartlesville High School students completing high school in four years has jumped from 83 percent to 89 percent.

“We are very proud that the graduation rate has increased. That’s a great stepping stone for the school board, all of the staff, and especially the teachers. You don’t get something like that without a lot of work,” said Martin Garber, BEP chairman, at a recent Bartlesville school board meeting.

BEP formed in 2015, when the group of education supporters teamed up with Bartlesville public school officials to develop innovative ways to help at-risk youth live up to their potential and have a successful future. The non-profit has a special focus on improving graduation rates and readiness for higher education, technical school or full-time employment.

During the 2017-18 school year, programs included elementary reading books and after-school tutoring for elementary students to assure all third-graders pass the state-sponsored reading test.

“BEP has really stressed third-grade reading. Kids who struggle with reading usually don’t have books at home, so we wanted to provide books they can take home,” said Garber, noting BEP donated $500 to each elementary site to purchase take-home reading books.

“It’s pretty obvious that third-grade reading is a cornerstone for any kind of graduation from high school. If you can’t read by the third grade, the state won’t let you go to the fourth grade. Statistics show that people who can’t read by the third grade are very likely not to graduate.”

After school tutoring in math and English is provided at both middle schools. It’s also available at the high school for math, English and science.

During the summer, funds were provided for numerous summer learning programs to provide a summer-learning experience for all students.

“We started a new program last year where we hired two teachers who are professionals in reading. We used their services for six weeks in the summer,” said Garber. “They first worked with the summer school kids, and then go to the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA and the Bartlesville Public Library each afternoon and work with kids.”

Over the next six weeks, the teachers helped more than a 1,000 kids read and encouraged them to read at home, Garber added.

“That’s obviously a big item and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to continue that type of in-depth summer reading program this next year,” he said.

Indeed, BEP will continue to expand and enhance its programs for students in the Bartlesville school district. All funding for programs is provided by local donors.

“We’re not giving up. We think there’s a lot yet to be done. We’re fundraising for continued activity and we expect that we’ll have aggressive programs for the rest of this year and this next summer,” said Garber. “We’re just delighted in helping kids get educated.”

By Emily Droege |

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