On-time grad rates up in Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO — The Waynesboro Schools division reported strong improvement Wednesday in the school district’s on-time graduation and dropout rates for the class of 2017, according to school officials.

The Virginia Department of Education released 2017 graduation rates on Wednesday for students who entered the ninth grade in 2013. The Department of Education said 91.1 percent of students statewide earned a Board of Education-approved diploma, compared to 91.3 percent in 2016.

On-time graduations in Waynesboro rose to 88.1 percent from 82.5 percent in 2016, Waynesboro Director of Instruction Sue Wright said, citing a summary report that the school district received Wednesday. The number on the Department of Education website, however, is 87.7 percent.

Dropouts fell from 7.3 percent to 3.98 percent, according to the report received by the Waynesboro Schools. The DOE website reports a 5.7 percent dropout rate for Waynesboro.

Improvement was noticeable in both on-time graduations and dropouts in Waynesboro.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into on-time graduation and decreasing the dropout rate,” Wright said.

She said committees at all six city schools are working to reduce absences by students.

“I credit the teachers and the administrators,” she said. “On-time graduation starts at the elementary school.”

The Augusta County Schools led the way for area school districts, reporting that 91.2 percent of the class of 2017 graduated on-time. The county had a dropout rate of 4.9 percent.

The Staunton Schools said 89 percent of those who entered the ninth grade in 2013 graduated on-time. One of the bright spots for Staunton was the 94 percent on-time graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students, the highest rate to date in Staunton. The school district reported a 7 percent dropout rate.

Administrators in the three school districts said they will not be satisfied until the on-time graduation rate is 100 percent. But they found good news in the information released Wednesday.

“We are pleased,” said Tina Kiracofe, the director of instruction and instructional technology for Augusta County Schools.

Graduation rates did vary, as they almost always do, between sexes, races and healthy students with a stable home life versus those with serious life challenges.

For instance, on-time rates for students with disabilities and homeless students — 78.4 and 53.8 percent, respectively — reflect the issues those pupils deal with.

“They have so many more obstacles to overcome,” Kiracofe said. “We are trying to reach all of those students.”

Kiracofe said the county school district attempts to intervene with students at risk of dropping out before the ninth grade. But she said student attendance and passing grades becomes paramount once a student enters high school.

“Every class must be passed. The ninth grade is where the rubber meets the road,” she said.

Stephanie Haskins, the director of assessment and school improvement in the Staunton Schools, said the school district is “proud of our recent graduates, who worked hard to meet an important life accomplishment. Staff at all of our schools celebrate the success of these students — from creating strong early learning foundations to exceeding the rigorous academic standards and requirements set by the state.

Wright of Waynesboro said on-time graduation may mean different things to different students.

“For some students it takes longer than four years, for some it takes less,” she said. Ultimately, Wright said the school district wants students prepared to walk into the workforce or into college when they leave high school.

Steve Staples, the superintendent of public instruction for Virginia, said the improvement for the commonwealth over the past decade is positive when it comes to graduation.

“When you look at the long-term trend for Virginia, you see a 10-point improvement in the graduation rate since 2008 as a result of a system-wide focus on keeping students in school and improving outcomes,” Staples said.

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