A report released Wednesday by the Southern Regional Education Board urges West Virginia and other southern states to make immediate changes to improve student achievement in grades six through eight.
Failure to do so could put an entire generation of students at risk for being unprepared to graduate from high school and succeed in colleges or careers, the report asserts.
The report says that although students have made good progress in early grades achievement in recent years, when they reach the middle grades, they start to lose momentum and often reach ninth grade unprepared for high school courses, which leads too many students to give up and drop out.
The SREB says 25 percent of students in the region entering ninth grade fail to graduate from high school on time. West Virginia has a slightly better rate, at only 23 percent. This is a major concern, as recent research shows the fastest growing jobs in the years ahead will be those requiring a college degree or technical certificate, the report says.
The report lays out a road map for change developed by the 35-member SREB Middle Grades Commission, a panel of state legislators, educators and other policy-makers from across the region.
West Virginia State Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, is a member of the commission.
"Middle grades education is one of the most crucial policy issues we are currently looking at in West Virginia," said Plymale. "We must improve in this area to strengthen the education pipeline which will provide skilled workers for tomorrow's economy."
Among other actions, the report recommends that states: