Schools lag in college prep

Published 11:38 am Saturday, February 11, 2012

FRANKLIN—Southampton High leads Western Tidewater’s public high schools in percentage of students who attend college, but all area schools trail the state average.

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Franklin High’s graduates are having the most success after entering college, according to companion data from the Virginia Department of Education.

Of the 181 students who graduated from Southampton High last year, 108, or 60 percent, enrolled in college. Southampton’s percentage falls just short of the state average of 62 percent. Forty-nine percent of Franklin High’s 2011 graduates enrolled in college, and half of Windsor High graduates did so.

“We’re always seeking to improve,” said Southampton Public Schools Superintendent Charles Turner. “Anytime you’re working on something, you’re never satisfied with where you are.”

SHS Principal Allene Atkinson called the numbers a terrific estimate but said they are misleading because they only count students who graduated with an advanced or standard diploma. She said there are SHS students who received GED certificates or modified diplomas for special education who also attend college.

“I believe the numbers are a little higher than that,” Atkinson said.

She said SHS offers many advanced-placement classes and standard classes to help prepare students for college, but the school has many career and technical classes to help prepare students for the workforce.

“We’re all trying to move the students on to the next step,” Atkinson said.

Franklin High School, with 49 percent of 2011 graduates enrolled in college, trails the state average by 13 percentage points. Of 78 graduates, 38 went on to college.

Franklin School Board Member Edna King believes that number can rise with the district’s current emphasis on career building.

“That’s going to help us so much,” King said. “Students are utilizing career-assessment tools that will direct them in selecting classes that will help lead them to rewarding careers.”

Half of Windsor High’s 103 graduates in 2011 enrolled in college, well below the state average.

“I can’t account for what happened before my arrival, but we are already putting things in place to help our students to become college- and career-ready,” said Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Katrise Perera, who was hired last summer.

Perera said the district has hired a college coach for both of the county’s high schools and has seen 17 students enroll early in college so far this year.

Charles Pyle, director of communications for the Department of Education, said the numbers released Monday could change as they track students for 16 months after graduation.

Companion data showed that 69 percent of Franklin High graduates who entered college in 2008 completed at least 30 credits within two years. That’s the best among public high schools in Western Tidewater and better than the state average of 67 percent.

Fifty-four percent of SHS’ 2008 graduates completed 30 college credits within two years, well below the state average.

“A lot of times it takes kids longer,” Atkinson said.

King said Franklin schools “provide many resources that do prepare our students for college.”

“You walk through the high school and see computers everywhere, and they’re being utilized,” she said.

Franklin City Public Schools central office staff did not return a phone call requesting comment Friday.

Of 41 members of the Windsor High Class of 2008 who attended college, 18, or 44 percent, earned 30 credit hours within two years of enrollment.

Perera said Isle of Wight Schools will work to better align curriculum with colleges to ensure the success of students.