Colonial Beach scores best, Fredericksburg lowest in latest graduation rate report

Colonial Beach posted the best graduation rate among Fredericksburg-area public schools in a report released by the state Wednesday, while Caroline and Culpeper counties and Fredericksburg scored the lowest.

Fredericksburg’s four-year graduation rate, which tracks students from their freshman year, was 82.4 percent, according to the Virginia Department of Education. Its dropout rate was 13.6 percent. Those numbers slipped from the 2016 report, in which the city schools posted an 89 percent graduation rate and a 9.9 percent dropout rate.

Caroline posted a graduation rate of 87.3 percent, down from 89.2 in 2016, and a dropout rate of 7.6 percent, compared with 9 percent the previous year.

Culpeper had a higher graduation rate at 89.8 percent, but its dropout rate of 7.3 percent nearly matched Caroline’s.

Taneshia H. Rachal, principal of James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg, said that comparisons to the previous year’s graduation rates are misleading because the latest figures don’t account for students who graduated after attending summer school or got their GED. The state won’t add those numbers to the total until Jan. 31 for all school systems.

“Once those adjustments are made, our results should be more in line with what we did the previous year,” she said. “There were 221 in that cohort. We had eight diploma recipients this summer and two GED completers.”

Rachal said that James Monroe is trying to improve its graduation rate by focusing on the needs of English Language Learner, or ELL, students and their attendance, and by providing daily instead of every-other-day classes for students struggling with algebra and geometry. It’s also making sure that the high school’s classes are vertically aligned with those at Walker–Grant Middle School.

“We’re able to peel back the levels of the feeder grades to get a better understanding of the skills that students have and meet any gaps,” she said.

JMHS also provide extensive remediation and enrichment programs after school, as well as several mentoring programs. These include Jackets United Mentoring Program, or JUMP, which provides and upperclassman mentor for each freshman.

Herbert Monroe, director of school leadership and improvement for Caroline County Public Schools, said Caroline High School has several strategies in place to improve graduation rates.

The school maintains an on-time graduation watch list committee made up of administrators, counselors and “other staff that may positively impact the student,” he wrote in an email.

The committee meets monthly with students at risk of not graduating on time and their families to devise plans to keep them on track.

CHS counselors review student grades every 4 1/2 weeks to identify students in need of remediation. They also refer students at risk of not graduating to the Diversified Studies Program, through which students can take online courses to make up missing credits.

“This year, we will continue our efforts to improve our on-time graduation rate by revising attendance procedures, requiring every ninth-grade student to develop a college and career plan which includes a course of study, creating proactive measures to address chronic absenteeism and implementing measures to identify students who are in jeopardy of dropping out through attendance, discipline and academic data,” Monroe wrote.

Colonial Beach had a 96 percent graduation rate, with a 4 percent dropout rate. That edged Fauquier (95 percent), Orange (94.4) and Stafford (94.3) for the best rate in the Fredericksburg region.

Spotsylvania’s graduation rate was 90.4 percent and its dropout rate was 5.9 percent.

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