Local High School Battles High Truancy Rate - 8 News NOW

Local High School Battles High Truancy Rate

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LAS VEGAS -- Millions of kids in this country are skipping school on a regular basis, according to the non-profit Get Schooled Foundation in New York City. The foundation did 516 interviews in 25 cities, including Las Vegas.

The organization found around 7 million students in the U.S. miss school at least 18 days annually. Most student say they skip because they are bored. Nearly half of the students said their parents never, or rarely know, when they skip school.

Chaparral High School was the Las Vegas school that took part in the report. The school once had the worst graduation rate in the state and hundreds of kids were skipping school on a regular basis.

Seventeen-year-old Karina Howard, a senior, said skipping school was once a steady habit.

"At least three times a week, every other week," she said.

Howard was failing classes and close to dropping out before she transferred to Chaparral High School.

"My biggest goal now is to graduate on time," she said.

"If you are not here, you can't learn, you can't graduate," Chaparral principal David Wilson said. He was assigned to the turnaround school in 2010. His goal was to boost the graduation rate, but he said he couldn't do that if kids weren't showing up to class.

He said as many as 25 percent of the students were not attending school by the end of the year. One by one, he worked to bring the students back. First, he said, he hired caring teachers who can motivate students. Next, he pushed kids to join activities such as band , drama, and football.

 "When kids feel loved and appreciated, when people pay attention noticing when they are not in school, they will come back to school," Wilson said.

When the county's truancy court went away in 2011, Wilson found money to launch his own court on campus where both students and parents are held accountable.

"Once they realize that you mean business, that you are going to be holding them accountable, then they get it," he said.

Howard found she was motivated to finish school.

"I try to be ahead of my class, if I can."

As the mother of a 13-month-old, she knows her education is important and wants to set a good example for her child.

"If I have the opportunity to go to college, I will," she said.

The graduating rate for Chaparral High School in 2011 was just 33 percent, the lowest in the state. Now just one year later, that number is close to 60 percent, one the highest gains in the country among similar sized high schools.

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