By: Sarah Snyder
ODESSA - We're only a few weeks away from the start of the new school year but right now all eyes are on last year's Texas Education Association (TEA) report card. Several schools were marked as "exemplary," but a high number of schools carry the "unacceptable" label.
"Everybody will have this at the forefront of their mind," Scott Randolph with the Ector County Student Assistant Services Department, said. "We need every student to graduate, every student is important."
The unacceptable ratings at both Permian and Odessa High schools along with several other Ector County schools came as a result of the climbing number of dropouts among students from low income families. Those students make up more than half of the entire district.
But school officials say those TEA scores may not be accurate. In fact this week, the district is organizing a meeting to appeal the unacceptable rating with an answer this October.
"We couldn't believe it because we've worked hard trying to get kids back in school," Ector County ISD Registrar, Twilla Bundick, said. "When we started going back through our records and showing that some of the students had gone on to another state or had graduated. We feel like there was a big error in the way it was reported. We have got to get these kids back in here because not only is it part of our job, but it's the difference in our community being a successful community too."
Campuses are relying on several programs to help retain students: tutoring, a virtual high school, counseling, and even going door to door is a part of an effort encouraging kids to get back to the classroom.
"We assist meeting basic needs kids have: clothes, school supplies, we'll continue to do that this year, mainly just reaching out to the kids and letting them know it's best to stay in," Randolph said.
They're developing a mentoring program reaching out to at-risk students who aren't involved in extracurriculars and matching them with a mentor who can help them feel like a part of the student body.
"If you can link them to the campus somehow, if you can link them to a counselor or one person that really cares about them and reaches out to them, their chances of staying and succeeding are much higher," Randolph said.
District social workers tell NewsWest 9, their biggest obstacle is simply letting parents know where to find help for their children. They say if your child needs anything from counseling to school supplies you can call 334-3728.