The number of young people graduating from high school in West Virginia is slowly creeping up, in keeping with national trends.
A new report puts West Virginia's high school graduation rate at 74.7 percent in 2010, the last year for which figures are available. That's the 28th highest graduation rate in the nation and puts the state on par with the national average, which is also 74.7 percent.
West Virginia's graduation rate has slowly climbed 4.5 points over the last decade, from 70.2 percent in 2000. That's slower than the increase has been on a national level but keeps the state in the middle of the pack of states.
The report, released today by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, noted that the nation's high school graduation rate is now at its highest point since the 1970s.
"At that pace of improvement, the center projects, the percent of students earning a diploma on time could surpass the historical high of 77.1 percent within a few years," the report reads.
"The sobering news is that, despite this upbeat trend, the glass remains partly empty."
Nearly 1 million students leave high school each year without earning a diploma.
In West Virginia the report estimates that more than 6,000 students will fail to graduate this school year. That's 34 students lost in the shuffle each school day.
In a statement, the state Department of Education touted its initiatives to help prevent dropouts. That includes the state's "early warning system," which creates a mechanism in the management system through which students at risk of dropping out can be identified as early as the sixth grade. Principals, counselors and teachers are notified when students are identified.
There's also the "option pathway" that lets students who complete their GED requirements and an approved career technical education program earn their high school diploma.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has been emphasizing retention as he works to advance his education reform movement. The state Department of Education is currently working to coordinate counseling between high schools and community colleges at his request.
And the new report says the dim job prospects that many graduates are faced with may actually be helping students stay in school.
"The recent economic downturn . . . may have helped catalyze new interest in these youths," it reads. "As one researcher notes, before the recession 'it was believed that there were still places in the economy they could go. We know not that isn't the case.' "
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.