Schools laud improved graduation rate

Published 9:28 pm Friday, October 12, 2012

Suffolk’s three public high schools have met state requirements for on-time graduation, on-time completion and dropout rates in 2012, despite some poor test scores meaning King’s Fork and Lakeland still missed full accreditation.

District-wide on-time graduation, on-time completion and dropout rates for 2012 were, respectively, 84.08 percent, 86.54 percent, and 9.96 percent, continuing a sustained year-on-year improvement since 2008.

Nansemond River High graduated the largest proportion of seniors on time, with nearly nine out of 10, while its dropout rate at 6.67 percent was also the lowest of the three schools.

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The worst performer, King’s Fork, graduated almost eight in 10 seniors, while its dropout rate was down from 13.37 percent to 11.94 percent.

Lakeland graduated just under 8 ½ out of every 10 seniors, while the dropout rate was 9.86 percent.

After a volley of bad academic news for Suffolk Public Schools in recent months, including some poor Standards of Learning results, underperforming subgroups and Lakeland and King’s Fork remaining in the accredited-with-warning club, district Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Kevin Alston sought to gain maximum positive impact from the news at Thursday’s School Board meeting.

“It’s not somewhat of a good news report, it’s a definite good news report,” he said following Superintendent Deran Whitney’s assertion that is was “somewhat of a good news report.”

For the second year, the Virginia Department of Education is using an index of graduation and completion rates to determine accreditation.

Though academic performance remains a large factor — hence the accreditations with warning for King’s Fork and Lakeland — high schools must achieve index scores of at least 85 for full accreditation.

“According to the graduation/completion index, all schools in Suffolk Public Schools this year would be fully accredited as far as on-time graduation, on-time completion, and dropout rates are concerned,” Alston said.

In 2011, both King’s Fork and Lakeland only scored high enough in the index for accreditation with warning.

Part-time graduation coaches at King’s Fork and Lakeland have helped lift rates, which are based on early data, Alston said. “They’re calling me all year long asking me about students; they’re really in their digging.”

Superintendent Deran Whitney said the coaches are “a position that should be full-time at all of the high schools.”