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Bridging the big gulf among local schools

KENNA Elementary School is one of the top schools in the state, ranking third out of the 399 grade schools in West Virginia. Its students eventually will wind up at George Washington High, which led the county's eight high schools by receiving 103 of the county's 367 Promise scholarships last spring.

Just two miles to the north sits the new Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School, which ranked No. 393 out of 399 elementary schools.

The gulf between the schools is wide. Average reading and math scores at Kenna are triple those at Snow.

How frustrating this must be to its teachers and staff, the superintendent, the school board and most of all, taxpayers, who have a huge investment in that new building and the staffing of that school.

Last year, countywide, dropouts rose and scholarships fell, but over the last few years, dropouts have fallen and scholarships increased.

It's a mixed bag that varies by the school.

On the one hand, the county has 27 schools that are in the top of the state's five categories. On the other hand, three schools - the three West Side elementaries - rank in the bottom category.

However, the problem is throughout the county not just on Charleston's West Side.

Over the decades, Kanawha schools have tried many programs. Readers may recall the POPS program that was popular 20 years ago.

POPS aimed at improving student self-esteem, a movement lampooned by a Bart Simpson T-shirt that read, "Underachiever and proud of it."

The public knows what works because people can see success at many schools. The key is something called parental involvement. Parents who make education important wind up with children who do well in school.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom regularly has to hold court for the parents of truant students, many of whom are in elementary school. His efforts and those of the prosecutor's office are laudable.

But it is sad that it takes a court order to get a few parents involved in elementary school. High school is too late.

Many high performing children have something that many lower performing children do not. No amount of money can replace parents who care about education.


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