Graduation Rates Improve in Virginia
In Virginia, more students in the class of 2010 graduated from high school after four years than in 2009.
The Virginia Department of Education says the on-time graduation rate for students who entered ninth grade in 2006 was more than two percentage points higher.
Pyle: 85.5% of the students who entered ninth grade for the first time four years ago, graduated within four years.
The Education Department’s Charles Pyle.
Pyle: And when you compare with 2008, we've gone from slightly better than 82% of students graduating on time.
This, Pyle added, is very hard work.
Pyle: Graduation rates don't move like pass rates on SOL tests; you can do some things during the course of a year to correct some instructional issues and a line curriculum with a testing program that can result in very significant increases in a pass rate. Graduation rates are much more difficult to move, so what you're seeing here is the result of some very hard work being done around the state; it's student-by-student work, focused on the kids who are most challenged by our minimum standards and most at-risk of dropping out. As the state superintendent points out, a significant accomplishment to move our graduation rate this far this fast.
One contributing factor, he said, is Virginia’s new accountability measures.
Pyle: The State Board of Education has set some very aggressive goals for graduation, and the school divisions are responding by really focusing on this in a student-by-student way. Now every student has a number that follows him from place to place and over time, so we can account for student mobility, we can distinguish between a transfer and a dropout and at the end of four years, look at this group of students and see just what percentage earned diplomas and graduated, and what percentage dropped out, without those figures being distorted by other factors. We're no longer just looking at the results of the tests taken by the students who are still in school; we're also looking at the ability of schools and school divisions to keep students in school and on track to a diploma.
One incentive for school systems is a higher SOL accreditation standard.
Pyle: The SOL accreditation program now includes an annual benchmark for high school graduation and completion. If high schools don't meet that benchmark, they will not earn full accreditation regardless of the level of achievement on the tests. The SOL accreditation ratings we announce next fall will be the first where high schools will have to meet this new benchmark.
There have been major changes over the past five years, Pyle said, in accountability.
Pyle: This system now gives school divisions a wealth of information so they can look at students very early on, in middle school, and start identifying those students who potentially are dropout risks and work with those students, because if they don't work with those students, they're not going to meet the accountability benchmark set by the State Board of Education.
While this used to be one of the most poorly-understood areas of public education, he added:
Pyle: Now we have a tremendous amount of transparency; you can go to the Department of Education website and really drill down into the data and see just what kind of job your local high school is doing in preparing students for success in earning a diploma.
The website is doe.va.gov.
John Ogle, WCVE News