Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Fifth of Roanoke students fell off graduation track
A state report shows that 22 percent of Roanoke ninth-graders in 2004 didn't graduate in '08.
From the Datasphere
Virginia graduation rates
More than one out of every five Roanoke students who were supposed to graduate last year dropped out of school, according to a new report from the Virginia Department of Education.
Roughly 22 percent of students who entered either Patrick Henry or William Fleming high schools as ninth-graders in 2004 did not make it to graduation. That's more than twice the statewide dropout rate, which stood at almost 9 percent last year.
Tuesday's report on dropouts complements a similar release in October on Virginia's graduation rate, which found that 59 percent of Roanoke's class of 2008 graduated on time. But only 52 percent of that class earned either a standard or advanced diploma, the only two credentials recognized by federal education officials under the No Child Left Behind law.
The state's report shows that the stubborn gap in educational achievement between black students and white students persists in dropout statistics.
Roughly 17.7 percent of the city's white high school students dropped out, while 25.5 percent of its black students did. The dropout rate among low-income students was even higher, at 28.5 percent.
The dropout rate at Patrick Henry High School stood at 18.2 percent, while at William Fleming High School it was 25.8 percent.
State Superintendent Pat Wright said the dropout statistics should provide a "wake-up call" to districts that may have been more focused on test scores than making sure students graduate.
"You also have to keep your eye on the goal post, and that means you have to make sure students are graduating from high school with a meaningful diploma," she said.
This is the first time state education officials have broken down dropout rates by demographic groups. This is also the first year that state officials are using an updated tracking method that assigns a number to every student entering high school in order to calculate more accurate graduation and dropout rates.
Roanoke County's dropout rate was 3.6 percent, while Salem posted a 3 percent dropout rate. Both of those school districts also had a sizable gap between the graduation rates of white students and black students.
In Montgomery County, 101 of the 815 students who entered their ninth-grade year in 2004 dropped out, increasing the county's dropout rate to 12.4 percent.
Statewide, roughly 82 percent of students graduated and 9 percent dropped out. The rest either earned a GED, a certificate of completion or are either still enrolled or are unaccounted for.
Also Tuesday, a report from The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based research group, found that black and Hispanic students are underrepresented on Advanced Placement tests, which help students prepare for college.
Although black students made up 24 percent of Virginia's high school juniors and seniors in 2006, they were only 6 percent of test-takers for calculus AP, 8 percent for English AP tests and 7 percent for biology AP tests. Hispanic students, which made up 6 percent of the state's juniors and seniors, represented only 4 percent of the state's AP test-takers on English and science exams and only 3 percent in AP calculus tests.
On the Net: www.doe.virginia.gov
Staff writer Anna Mallory contributed to this report.