Dropout rates high at some area schools
By PAMELA GOULD
Roughly one of every 10 students who entered high school in Fredericksburg and Caroline County four years ago failed to graduate, according to data released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education.
Both school divisions saw a slight increase in their dropout rates from 2011. But numbers were better than rates recorded two years ago, according to state figures.
Fredericksburg Superintendent David Melton said that numbers the state released Tuesday are preliminary and that he just sent updated numbers to the state that he expects will improve both the dropout and graduation rates for his division.
Fredericksburg recorded a 9.8 percent dropout rate this year compared with a 9.6 percent rate for 2011 and a 13.5 percent rate for 2010.
“This is not a competition,” Melton said in response to having the second-highest dropout rate and lowest on-time-graduation rate among the region’s 10 school divisions.
Melton said the city division is doing the same things it has been doing for the past few years: utilizing a drop-out-prevention and on-time-graduation task force, putting goals into the comprehensive plan, providing counseling for students, and seeking early identification of students at risk of not graduating.
Caroline recorded a 10.5 percent dropout rate for this year—a 0.5 percent increase over last year but less than its 11.1 percent rate in 2010. Caroline officials could not be reached for comment.
The state released dropout and on-time-graduation rate figures on Tuesday. Statewide, the dropout rate for this year was 6.5 percent, down from 7.2 percent in 2011.
Orange County had the lowest dropout rate in the Fredericksburg region at 2.6 percent.
Culpeper and Westmoreland county school divisions were the only ones in the region to see an improvement in their dropout rates. Culpeper’s rate dropped from 6.1 percent in 2011 to 3.7 percent this year.
Westmoreland saw the biggest improvement in the region, dropping from 14.3 percent in 2011 to 6.1 percent this year. Westmoreland also saw the biggest improvement in on-time graduation. The rate jumped by 13.6 points, from 75.5 percent in 2011 to 89.1 percent this year.
Westmoreland’s improvement bested the statewide on-time-graduation rate of 88 percent. Westmoreland officials could not be reached for comment.
On-time-graduation rates reflect the percentage of students who graduate within four years of entering.
Gov. Bob McDonnell released a statement Tuesday commending state students for improvements overall in completing high school.
“More students graduating on time from Virginia’s schools means we have more young people who are college or career ready,” he said in a prepared statement.
He noted that the improvements are not enough.
“Our job will not be done until students in every school and every ZIP code have the opportunity to learn and graduate from high school prepared to succeed at the next level,” he said.
The King George County school division recorded the highest on-time-graduation rate in the region for this year at 92.6 percent. Stafford’s rate of 92 percent ranked it second. The two divisions were among six locally to exceed the statewide graduation rate.
Orange, Culpeper and Louisa counties joined Westmoreland in exceeding the state average.
King George High School Principal Cliff Conway attributes the district’s high graduation rates to early-intervention programs implemented for at-risk students in recent years.
King George, which has one high school, uses a program, Project Graduation, that provides tutoring to students who have trouble passing the state’s Standards of Learning tests.
The school also instituted flex time during the school day, which provides the opportunity for 50 minutes of tutoring. Students can also make up class time, take makeup tests and work in media labs. The school recently began offering Apex, a credit recovery program that allows courses to be retaken online.
Louisa’s division exceeded the statewide graduation rate despite seeing its rate drop by 1.5 points to 90 percent. Spotsylvania and Caroline school divisions saw graduation rates improve by fewer than 2 points over last year. Spotsylvania’s rose from 84.5 percent to 85.9; Caroline’s rate rose from 82.4 to 83.3 percent.
Colonial Beach and Fredericksburg saw their graduation rates fall.
Robyn Sidersky and Lindley Estes contributed to this story.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972