Organizations such as The Education Alliance also have joined in, providing training to counties interested in conducting community forums to address the issue in their area.
In addition, "innovation zone" grants have helped numerous counties implement new strategies in schools to help at-risk students. Seventeen of West Virginia's 55 county school systems are currently using that funding, DeBerry said.
In its most recent effort, the state Department of Education teamed up with Johns Hopkins University to identify potential dropout indicators to establish "an early warning system." That system was made available for teachers and administrators to use this year.
"We all have a common goal, and that is to see students graduate from high school with career plans. Even from an economic standpoint, you can't have a successful state if students aren't graduating and moving into postsecondary opportunities," she said.
As a former school counselor specializing in at-risk students, DeBerry said that when talking about dropouts, schools have to consider "home contributors."
About 80 percent of people who drop out of school at some point in their lives will end up in jail, according to the educational nonprofit Mattie C. Stewart Foundation. Within West Virginia, 75 percent of all prison inmates are high school dropouts.
"If students do not live in home environments that promote or support completing your education, they have to have a positive connection to an adult at school and receive additional support academically," she said.
"A lot of times, we don't know the stresses at home, but it's those students -- who don't have someone there to tell them they can do it when they feel like it's too hard -- that give up."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.