Central Middle makes progress

Published 8:30 am Friday, April 19, 2024

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Typically by now, the numbers have dropped a bit. On an average year, Central Middle School finishes the first semester with between 160 to 175 students who are not chronically absent. But by this point in the school year, that number is much lower. Except that’s not the case here in 2024. 

“We have maintained 160 qualified students each nine weeks this year,” said Central Middle Principal Jessica Pillow. “That is about one third of our enrollment! Typically we start at 160 to 175 and then it falls back to 100 as the year progresses, but not this year.” 

Part of that Pillow credits to the way Central Middle School staff are thinking outside of the box.

In order to get a reward, students can have no more than two excused absences for the 9-week period. And in return, those students get things like free sports passes to home games, a free slushie from the slushie truck at the year-end kickball game or entrance to a BINGO game where they can win prizes. And if you achieve perfect attendance for the entire year, there’s a free ticket to Kings Dominion waiting for you over summer break. The idea is that yes, you’ll get rewarded for showing up, but you’ve got to do the work first. Rewards won’t be taking over all of your classtime. 

And it’s not just attendance going up. Pillow points to passing rates improving across the board. In English, 76% of Central students passed in 2019, before the pandemic. Now that number’s up to 80%. The school is also outpacing its 2019 pass rate in science, from 78% to 79%. 


On Tuesday, April 9, Central held its third quarter student attendance event. The rules were clear. Only students with no more than two excused absences during the quarter were eligible to attend. And they definitely wanted to attend, as a mobile arcade was brought in. 

We’re not talking about just one console and controllers. The arcade was equipped with LED lights, music and games, including Monster Truck Racing, Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Jurassic Park. 

Students were given a pair of official Do Not Disturb gaming socks and a ticket to visit the arcade for a 30 minute play session. And Pillow said things like this are motivating students. They want to show up for class, knowing they’ll qualify for rewards. 

“The event not only encouraged students to prioritize their attendance but also fostered a sense of fun and excitement within the school day,” Pillow said. “We are very proud of the improvements seen in attendance this school year and look forward to many more exciting incentives to come!”