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W.Va. school system pleased with grade

February 04, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Amelia Pleasant, 16, doesn't need to look at the state's annual education report card to know her school is improving.

"People have started to care more about their grades," said Pleasant, a Jefferson County High School junior and one of two students on the School Improvement Council.

Students are less disruptive in classes and work harder to attend each day, Pleasant said. She said fewer drop out and the number of classroom smart alecs has declined.

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Some of the changes stem from a new policy that exempts students from semester exams if they have a C average and no more than four absences, she said.

But Pleasant credits students' attitudes for much of the school's progress. "It's up to the students to make the effort to go to school and get an education," she said. "Different programs and encouragement from teachers help, but basically it comes down to the students to decide an education is important to them."

Jefferson County Associate Superintendent John Rose said he was pleased with most of the findings included in the recently released West Virginia Report Card of Schools.

But, he said, more work needs to be done to lower the school's dropout rate. In Jefferson County, 29.7 percent of students dropped out of school between the 7th and 12th grades. The state's dropout average was 15.7 percent.

Improving the school's daily attendance rate is one way to curb the number of dropouts, Rose said. Students who do not attend school tend to fall behind and then drop out because they feel they cannot catch up.

County school officials have also asked for a waiver of a state policy so that students can go to school for four periods a day, then leave for work, similar to way students can take their high school classes, then leave to go to college courses.

The school also has started an alternative learning center where 14 students attend high school at night. There, four teachers, a counselor and an administrator work closely with the students on the courses - and the issues - that are keeping them from attending school during the day, he said.

Rose said he also would like to see more businesses take an interest in keeping students in school. In many communities, the Chamber of Commerce requires students to remain in school with passing grades before businesses agree to hire them for after-school jobs. Rose would like to see the program in Jefferson County.

The report card's brighter side, Rose said, is that on the test of total basic skills, all schools in Jefferson County tested above the 50th percentile, the level required by the state.

Students also tested well on the two national, college entrance exams. The average score for Jefferson County students on the SAT math portion was 506, the same as the state average. The national average is 508. On the SAT verbal scores, Jefferson County students scored an average of 544, well above the state average of 526 and the national average of 505.

Jefferson County schools overall had an attendance rate of 93.2 percent, above the state required average of 90 percent, but below the overall state average of 93.9 percent.

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