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School division reports high graduation rates

Shenandoah County Public Schools has a four-year graduation rate of 96.3 percent. That is a higher percentage, schools Superintendent Mark Johnston said,  than the regional average of 93.7 percent and the state average of 91.1 percent.

“Our graduation rate in Shenandoah County Public Schools is a reflection of the commitment and dedication of our staff who understand that education is the pathway to a better life. It is a testament to them that they understand that every student is an individual and every individual has specific needs. Staff works to find out what the needs are and to make sure they are met,” Johnston said.

Clarke and Page counties are the only two counties higher than Shenandoah County with graduation rates of 97.9 and 96.7 percent respectively.

Frederick County has a graduation rate of 94.8, Warren County is at 93.9 percent and Winchester City is at 92.9 percent, Johnston said.

A more challenging and diverse student population to educate in Shenandoah County includes a growing number of students who speak English as a second language and an increase in the number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunches. They all are, however, graduating. The Shenandoah County division boasts a 100 percent graduation rate for students who speak English as a second language.

From 2012 to this year, the number of students who primarily speak another language has grown 51 percent, increasing from 348 in 2012 to 524 students.

The special challenge for those students who may have little or no formal education is that they must first learn English and at a level of proficiency that allows them to learn challenging subject matter, such as the sciences or math, being taught in English, Johnston said.

Another group that may need additional attention to ensure they graduate are students who are eligible for free or reduced lunches. That student population has increased from 42 percent in 2013 to 47 percent this year.

Students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch are at a higher risk of not graduating, but more than 95 percent of them do graduate from Shenandoah County Schools.  Generally, these students have to make up gaps in vocabulary or may have to work to earn income to support the family. Parents of these students are typically working so aren’t able to provide as much support at home, Johnston said.

“It is a testament to them (teachers) that they understand that every student is an individual and every individual has specific needs. Staff works to find out what the needs are and to make sure they are met,” he said.

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