West Virginia University
8 Nov

This story came to me in a very different way. My mother, Beth Brown, brought to my attention a program at Upshur County Schools which is looking at ways to lower the dropout rate. I asked her if there was a similar one in Monongalia County, and after a little investigation we found a newsletter that detailed Monongalia County’s Grad Nation program.

The program seemed interesting to me because I personally know many intelligent individuals that dropped out of high school and now regret it. This program has satisfied much of my curiosity as to what is being done to help those that are considering dropping out.

An interesting angle I found, but was unable to include, the WVU Law School’s student organization called the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society’s involvement with Monongalia County School’s Grad Nation program. The organization’s members have been acting as facilitators and scribes for the program.

Judy Reckart, Coordinator of the Grad Nation initiative in Monongalia County, said that this was the first time that the WVU Law School has partnered with the Monongalia County Board of Education.

“WVU Law School has a student organization that provides mediation services primarily to juvenile courts,” said Reckart. “They were looking for additional opportunities to participate in community mediation opportunities. We were able to make contact with the organization and they convened a three hour Saturday morning workshop for interested students. They have provided facilitators and scribes for almost every session. We have had some community members as scribes and facilitators. But, the bulk of this work has been done by these law students.”

Click Here for the Press Release


The number of students who drop-out of high school before graduation is a concern across the country. In West Virginia the drop-out rate is 17%. The Monongalia County Board of Education has begun a program called Grad Nation, which is looking for ways to increase graduation.

Judy Reckart, Coordinator of the Grad Nation initiative in Monongalia County, says Monongalia is one of four counties in the state to receive funding from the Education Alliance of West Virginia to investigate the dropout rate.

“We’ve had 11 what we’re calling small forums that we’ve held at the high schools, the technical education center, all the county middle schools,” Reckart said. “We’ve had three off site forums: one for law enforcement and the judiciary, and two for specificity for at-risk students, councilors, teachers and parents of at-risk students.”

Reckart says that typically students at risk of dropping out of school have more absences, are seldom engaged in extra-curricular activities and have difficulty maintaining good grades. She says students who drop out do a disservice to themselves and their communities.

“Not completing their education impacts, obviously, their potential earning power,” Reckart stated. “But, it also impacts the extent to which they can contribute to their communities [and] the extent to which they can be fully functional societal members. Unfortunately, [within] prison populations, a high percentage of those incarcerated have been dropouts. They were at one point at-risk students. We’re trying to catch them when they’re at-risk students so they don’t become dropouts.”

Assistant Principal at University High School, Pete Cheesebourgh, says his school uses a program called the Ninth Grade Academy to help students who are at risk of dropping out of school. Students in the program work with teachers and councilors in smaller class-room settings.

“If we can get them…[to be] success[ful] in high school as a ninth grader,” said Cheesebough, “then they’re not falling into that slippery slope of having no success in ninth grade [and then] going into their second year of high school with a very low number or no credits at all. Seeing failure in the ninth grade leads to failure in the tenth grade because they’re having to take ninth grade classes over again. If we can get [them] up…the first few steps successfully then they say, ‘Hey, I can do this!’”

During the Grad Nation forums in Monongalia County, a recurring suggestion has been to extend the Ninth Grade Academy to tenth and eleventh grades, or even begin it as early as third grade. A final community-wide public forum will be held at Mountaineer Middle School Nov. 17. The county’s Grad Nation results will be presented to the Education Alliance of West Virginia by the end of the year.

Click Here for the Radio Version

Links for additional information:

A website with national high school dropout statistics.

This is a link to an article about the forum held a little over a month ago to address the state’s dropout rate of 17%
Two articles regarding the increase last spring of the legal high school dropout age from 16 to 17.

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