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WVUToday Story Pitch: ‘Alternate pathways,’ dropout prevention efforts help West Virginia improve to No. 3 in U.S. high school graduation rates

By WVUToday

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Strategies implemented in West Virginia schools to prevent students from dropping out helped boost high school graduation rates in the Mountain State from No. 27 to No. 3, according to West Virginia University education experts.

Editor’s Note: This information is provided to assist journalists with related articles. West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics.  Search for an expert by name, title, areas of expertise or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVUToday

In terms of graduation rates, some initiatives involve credit recovery options, like students retaking previously failed courses, and a flagging system for school officials to intervene early when a student shows signs of poor academic performance.

Recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics revealed Alabama and West Virginia as two states that showed the biggest jumps in graduation rates. JoDee Decker and Christine Schimmel, both with the WVU College of Applied Human Sciences, and Donna Peduto, executive director of the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative, are available to comment on the topic.


“The graduation rates have increased due to the expansion of CTE — career and technical education— opportunities across the state coupled with credit recovery options increasing as well. Also, there is the ability to gain credits in non-traditional manners such as virtual learning. These initiatives have provided students with a variety of options instead of just one path to graduation.” — JoDee Decker, field and clinical placement coordinator, WVU College of Applied Human Sciences

“West Virginia has done a great job of providing students ‘alternate pathways’ to achieve graduation and also they have done a nice job of providing options for students to recover lost/failed credit for courses in which they were unsuccessful, commonly known as ‘credit recovery.’” — Christine Schimmel, associate professor, School of Counseling and Well-Being, WVU College of Applied Human Services

“As a former teacher and state Department of Education employee, it is very exciting to see West Virginia showcased nationally regarding the significant increases in graduation rates. The West Virginia Department of Education has been very intentional for over a decade in its efforts to prioritize developing supports and resources for school and counties, and it has certainly been a worthwhile focus.

“These supports included hiring a student success coordinator to work with schools/counties to focus on data to put names and faces on the dropout numbers. WVDE also worked on developing processes to ensure students wishing to dropout were counseled about their options. This required staff to get to the root cause of why students wished to drop out and provide many alternatives and supports.

“West Virginia was also an early adopter of an Early Warning Tracking System focusing on students in K-12. This system looked at the components of dropout prevention by flagging students with low academic scores and course failures, as well as high absenteeism. Principals, teachers and counselors were also trained on early intervention through this system. Consistently focusing time and attention on these early warning indicators and providing additional support has resulted in this commendable increase in graduation rates that will enable our state’s graduates to significantly increase their workforce opportunities.” — Donna Peduto, executive director, West Virginia Public Education Collaborative  

WVU Research Communications
304-293-5507; [email protected] 

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