Bristol Virginia Schools working to decrease student dropout rate


BRISTOL, Va. - Every year 1.3 million students drop out of school, including right here in our region. Bristol, Virginia is what's called a high risk area, last year 10% of students did not graduate.

"Any time you have school that's facing the kind of poverty that Bristol Virginia is facing you're going to have an increase in dropout rates," said Alex Littleton, program director of Communities in Schools Southwest Virginia.

That's why the city is getting a hand from 'Communities in Schools', a nationwide program that's helping more than 2,000 schools with dropout prevention.

Right now they have on-site coordinators at three local schools, they work one on one with students at Highland View Elementary, Washington Lee Elementary and Virginia Middle School.

"Individually assess the student needs and then puts support systems in place to either improve attendance, academics or behavior," said Littleton.

Although most students tend to drop out at the high school level, research shows starting these programs during elementary and middle school years makes a big difference. It helps decrease some of those risk factors for students who are likely to drop out.

"We have the big three," said Carrie Goss, on-site coordinator at Virginia Middle School. "Attendance, behavior and course performance."

Last year they managed the cases of 77 at-risk students in the three schools, 76% improved attendance, 77% improved behavior, and almost 90% improved their academic scores.

Goss said every day she sees her students slowly change from being at risk, to enjoying being in school.

"It's heartwarming to know that you've played a part in a student's life or in a family's life and helped them make some sort of improvement," said Goss.

Since starting the program, Virginia Middle School principal, Jason Matlock, said he's seen huge improvements throughout the school.

"Instilling in them the value of coming school and getting an education. That there are people here that really care about you."

Now they're working to expand the program to Bristol Virginia High School, to continue dropout prevention all the way to graduation.