Area schools exceed rates for graduation

By Josette Keelor

Virginia on-time high school graduation rates are close to 90 percent for the 2014 academic year, the Virginia Department of Education announced Wednesday.

Local district graduation rates exceeded state averages, which steadily increased from 81.3 percent in 2008 to 89.9 percent this year. Individually, however, some area schools fell short.

Shenandoah County Public Schools exceeded the Virginia average by 5 percent, Superintendent Jeremy Raley pointed out in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

“This is an indication of success for our school division,” he said. “We’re very, very proud of the graduation rate that was released today.”

Individually, the county’s three high schools more or less maintained their graduation rates since last year, with Central High School earning a 96.5 percent rate, Strasburg 93.3 and Stonewall Jackson 96.9.

On-time graduation rates track student cohort groups throughout their high school career in categories determining expected graduation after four, five or six years of high school.

This year’s rate, according to a news release from Frederick County Schools, is determined by dividing the number of students in the cohort earning a Virginia Board of Education-approved diploma by the number of students who entered the ninth grade for the first time in 2010-11, including transfers in and excluding transfers out. Other factors include promotion and retention policies and decisions.

The Shenandoah division achieved a 95.4 on-time graduation rate for students who were expected to graduate in four years, versus last year’s rate of 95.7 percent.

The division will continue its goal of helping students be academically successful, Raley said.

“Every situation is an individual situation and it’s important to continue the relationship building that we’ve done,” he said.

Though Clarke and Page counties saw higher results with 100 percent and 96.7 percent respectively, Raley said Shenandoah’s population is more diverse.

The numbers, he said, are “representative of our student body.”

Of the county’s 520 four-year students who graduated on time last May, 423 are White, 60 Hispanic and 13 Black. Others were identified in other categories or ranked below the state definition for personally identifiable results.

Comparatively, 10 of Clarke County’s 165 recent graduates were identified as Black, 137 as White and the remaining 18 students not identified as any particular ethnicity.

Raley identified poverty as another factor in graduation rates, saying the school division plans to improve by working with community agencies like the Department of Social Services, law enforcement and juvenile probation officers — “to try to meet the needs of students that we haven’t met in the past.”

“It’s going to take an interagency approach to do that,” he said.

Though Warren County earned a 93.5 percent graduation rate over last year’s 92.3 percent rate, the county’s two high schools saw a wide gap in results that Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Greg Drescher attributed to Skyline High School high school students repeating a grade or dropping out.

Students who drop out or are still in school after four years of high school count against the total, he explained in an email. Skyline had a few more instances of students dropping out or staying in school a year longer. “That is why their rate is lower,” he wrote.

Skyline earned an 89.7 percent graduation rate, compared with Warren County High School’s 97.6 graduation rate.

Frederick County’s on-time graduation rate was 90.3 percent, up from 90.1 percent in 2013 and 87.1 percent in 2012. Lowest in the county, Sherando High School’s rate of 88.3 percent was down from last year’s 92 percent. Other schools increased their rates from last year.

Quoted in the release, Superintendent David Sovine said that although he’s pleased with progress, schools have room to grow.

“Staff members are helping students understand the importance of earning a high school diploma and other credential,” he said. “In addition, students who are at-risk of not completing high school are being provided with the supports they need in order to graduate so they may go on to pursue a post-secondary education or enter the workforce.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com