WINFIELD, W.Va. -- A large number of Putnam County high school graduates go on to college -- but nearly two out of three of those don't earn a degree, according to the county's schools superintendent.
"It's something that has bothered me for a while," Chuck Hatfield said. "Our WESTEST and ACT scores are good and all the academic indicators show we're at the top."
That's one reason teachers in Putnam County will begin to emphasize work ethic and communication skills with their students in the fall -- and those qualities will count toward a student's grades.
Hatfield admits some students are lacking important life skills, like how to hold engaging conversations with adults.
"We want kids to know how they're supposed to communicate with each other and adults. If a visitor comes into the school, they should offer assistance and a handshake," he said. "In this day and time kids are losing those skills. When you see kids now they're texting."
Putnam middle-school students will have skills like communication and work ethic count as 10 percent of their grades, according to Hatfield. The same skills will account for 20 percent of high-school students' grades.
The first year of the program will focus on work ethic and communication, but in the future individual schools will be allowed to determine their own needs.
"Hurricane High might realize they have a lot of kids tardy, so they could make punctuality the big issue," he said.
The new plan will in no way overshadow academics, Hatfield said.
"We know how important academics are -- knowledge is power. We think this will enhance academic standards," he said. "If we can teach skills to enhance the opportunity to become a college graduate or be career-ready, we have an obligation to."
A group of about 70 county teachers have been meeting to develop how to teach and implement the program. Hatfield said teachers would not only have to teach the skills, but model them.
"A lot of these things are already in the state policy, but this is a more formal approach. I don't know any other district in the state doing this county-wide," Hatfield said.