All across Iowa, this is the time of year when high schools celebrate at commencement exercises an important milestone in the lives of seniors - graduation.
Graduation from high school is a key benchmark event. It is a major transition point in life. For many young folks, not only does it represent completion of a critical educational phase, but it also is a time when adulthood is close at hand. That's true even for those students who plan post-high school educational pursuits. For the majority of graduates, the time of living in one's parents' home and spending days at school with fellow students one has known since early childhood is ending - or at least in its final stages.
Iowans have put a high priority on education since the pioneers first settled the Hawkeye State. It is a tribute to that emphasis - and a source of pride - that this state has one of the nation's highest graduation rates for high school students. Additionally, the quality of the schooling is for the most part exceptional. Iowa students consistently rank high in comparison with those in other states on assorted measures of academic performance. That's true for both the state's excellent public schools and its many fine private institutions.
An educated public is vitally important to the success of democratic governmental institutions. In a world where each of us is inundated by a vast amount of information, the ability to evaluate it is crucial. The analytical skills learned in school will prove relevant for a lifetime.
There is also a critical economic return on the investment in schooling. It is well-known that graduating from high school has a long-term impact on earning potential. Estimates vary, but most put the greater earnings of high school graduates over dropouts at about $10,000 annually. The Alliance for Excellent Education recently calculated the impact of that gap for dropouts from the class of 2008 for each state. It concluded that for Iowa there would be "almost $1.8 billion in lost wages over their lifetime."
The Messenger congratulates this year's high school graduates on their success. Hard work and dedication have made this achievement possible. Each graduating class is also a tribute to the educators whose skills and enthusiasm played such a vital role in this accomplishment. Finally, no graduation season should pass without a world of praise for the dedicated parents who supported their offspring on the long, challenging path to graduation.