Area dropout, graduation rates lag state averages

Published 8:21 am Wednesday, April 1, 2009

RICHMOND—Compared with statewide averages, area public school divisions have higher dropout rates and lower on-time graduation rates, data released from the Virginia Department of Education revealed Tuesday.

In its annual cohort report, the VDOE said the dropout rate for Franklin City Public Schools is 17.4 percent, double the statewide rate of 8.7 percent. Public schools in Southampton and Isle of Wight counties also posted dropout rates above the state average, at 11.5 and 12.2 percent, respectively.

According to the VDOE, 20 students dropped out of both Franklin High School and Windsor High School over the last four years. Another 27 students dropped out of Southampton High School, and 36 dropped out of Smithfield High School during that timeframe.

Meanwhile, Isle of Wight County led local public school divisions with an on-time graduation rate of 80.4 percent, followed by Southampton County and the city of Franklin with rates of 74.9 and 64.3 percent, respectively.

The statewide on-time graduation rate is 82.1 percent.

The VDOE defines cohorts as the number of students who were first-time ninth graders for the 2004-05 school year, and were considered the Class of 2008. Adjustments were made for transfers in and out of a division, and for students permitted to take longer than four years to graduate or complete school.

“Southampton County Public Schools acknowledges the 74.9 percent on-time graduation rate for Southampton High School,” said Charles Turner, the division’s superintendent. “The school system is continuing to strive for a 100-percent graduation rate.”

Turner added that to help attain that goal, the division has “implemented the Pathways to Success Program, which is a comprehensive, academic and intervention support program for elementary through high school.”

Dr. Michael McPherson, superintendent of Isle of Wight County Schools, said, “Ensuring that all students in Isle of Wight County graduate from high school benefits the entire community. As such, a combined effort of parents, students, community and schools is necessary to progress toward that goal.”

Katherine Goff, public information officer for Isle of Wight County Schools, said the division’s teachers, guidance counselors and principals were “working collaboratively to assist all students of reaching their graduation date.

“Our schools are working to improve the 9th grade promotion rates, a grade that traditionally has the highest retention rate nationwide,” she said.

Goff cited several strategies Isle of Wight has adopted to improve student achievement, among them the 9th grade Small Learning Community at Smithfield High School, the 9th grade transition program at Windsor High School, and a credit recovery program which allows students to complete courses and be promoted to the next grade with their cohort group.

Franklin City Public Schools Acting Superintendent Bev Rabil did not return several calls seeking comment.