It's long been known that learning begins early in life. Now, educators and public officials are emphasizing that children's school attendance habits begin at the very start of their education career - in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.
In recent months, 19th Judicial Circuit Judge Alan Moats and West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis have been crisscrossing the state to raise awareness of school truancy prevention. Last week, they kicked off the Destination Graduation program at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Their aim is to keep students in school until they complete graduation.
While it seems logical that children should go to school and earn at least a high school diploma, it isn't what's happening all the time. According to The Education Alliance's guide for Dropout Prevention in West Virginia, the state had only a 75.2 percent graduation rate in 2008. Contributing to this, the group says, is "sixth-graders who miss 18 or more days and ninth-graders who miss 27 or more days are more likely to drop out."
The problems that result for dropouts affects not only the individual, but their communities as well. Moats points out that eight in every 10 people incarcerated in West Virginia jails are truants. Steve Foster, director of the Upshur County Economic Development Authority, says counties with a high dropout rate have difficulties in attracting new industries and professionals because people considering relocation want the best educational options for their children.
The reasons students don't attend classes or drop out altogether are varied, and there are many programs in place as deterrents. One of the most unique is Tucker County's "Feet Under Seats," which has schools competing for the highest attendance rates. At the end of the school season, classes will receive awards and three students will win iPads.
So far it's working. Administrators attribute the success to students reinforcing each other through positive peer pressure.
Whatever it takes to keep students in school ought to be pursued. Education is the key to every youth's future.