CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Board of Education awarded Kanawha County Schools $300,000 in "innovation zone" funding on Thursday to help implement a new program that aims to decrease the high school dropout rate among students from Charleston's West Side.
The money will help implement a community school model program at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary, Stonewall Jackson Middle and Capital High that calls for community engagement and provides families support to "systematically improve the educational, social, emotional, physical and cultural outcomes of youth."
Schools that the state Department of Education approves as innovation zones receive waivers to state policy that let them try out new, research-based strategies in an effort to improve student learning.
Kanawha County's project, led by The Charleston Community and Family Development Corporation, aims to integrate public and private resources to provide comprehensive support for at-risk students from birth up to their transition between high school and college or a career.
The three "low performing" schools were chosen based on factors including poor graduation rates and a high percentage of students living in poverty, according to Kanawha County Schools' grant application.
Capital High's graduation rate is only about 57 percent, and more than 93 percent of students at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary come from low-income families.
As part of the initiative, community work groups will meet monthly to assess data and the current services offered to the schools' students, and will develop new interventions to reach out to the most at-risk students.
Students will participate in "development sessions" throughout the school year, which provide extra focus on skill building, ACT preparation, and career and college planning.
In addition, 100 middle and high school students will participate in a pre-college program that allows students to explore their college and career options firsthand through career shadowing and campus visits.
Other objectives include increasing the number of students engaged in out-of-school enrichment activities and improving attendance rates.