By Erica Kearns
The WV Department of Education has released new data showing that high school graduation rates for the state have steadily improved over the past five years, raising 8.5% since 2008. The successful graduation rates are in part credited to a variety of public education school as well as the newly enforced WV Supreme Court anti-truancy initiative.
“It’s working,” Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis said Wednesday, crediting circuit court judges for embracing a program that holds parents and caregivers accountable when children miss too much school. Some counties have even hired probation officers specifically to deal with truancy, she said, “and in the counties that have done that, the truancy rate has dramatically increased and graduation rates have dramatically increased.”
Truancy is proven to increase the risk of drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy and incarceration rates. Justice Davis says that eight of ten people incarcerated are high school dropouts. “We either solve it – starting in preschool and kindergarten and planting the seed there – or we end up paying for it as a society, building jails and prisons,” Davis said. “That’s a no-brainer to me.”
Legislators are working hard to detour high school students from quitting before graduation. The legal dropout age was raised to 17 in 2010, permissible absences have been decreased from ten to five and the WV DMV requires schools to verify a student’s attendance is in good standing before a driver’s permit will be issued. “There’s always room for improvement,” Justice Robin Davis said. “The good news is that as people see the numbers and they see the impact that this is creating on truancy and graduation rates, then everyone gets on board.”
The graduation rates here at home haven’t been as positive. Clay County’s graduation rate has declined 10.2 percent in recent years. However, state officials say this rate could have easily been skewed by a small number of students. New guidelines, goals and educator involvement may be effective in putting Clay County at the top of the list.