On-time graduation, dropout results please SPS

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Suffolk Public Schools is pleased with a “continued increase” in high school seniors graduating on time and decrease in dropouts, its deputy superintendent says.

State education officials released data Tuesday showing the school district mostly improved in the two measures more than other Hampton Roads cities.

The 2013 division-wide on-time graduation rate increased 1.4 percent to 87.2 percent — Hampton Roads’ largest increase on 2012. The next-largest was Newport News, up about four-fifths of a percent to 85.2 percent.

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While the on-time graduation rate fell back in the remaining five cities, Virginia Beach’s 88 percent and Chesapeake’s 92 percent are still above Suffolk’s.

For dropouts, the Suffolk division’s 8.1 percent, after 10.7 percent in 2012, was the region’s third-biggest improvement behind Hampton and Newport News; though only Portsmouth and Norfolk had a higher proportion of dropouts.

“We are very pleased with the continued increase in the number of on-time graduates and the decrease in the number of students dropping out of school and will continue to work with students and staff to meet the requirements outlined by the state,” Jacqueline Chavis — the deputy superintendent — said in an email.

For individual schools, only Lakeland High went slightly backward in one area, with on-time graduation falling from 85 percent to 84.7 percent. Its dropout rate improved from 10.5 percent to 9.9 percent, and Suffolk’s other two public high schools improved across the board.

At King’s Fork High, on-time graduation rose from 83.3 percent to 85.7 percent and dropouts fell from 12.5 percent to nine percent. At Nansemond River — the odd high school out among the three as the only one fully accredited — on-time graduation inched up from 92.7 percent to 92.8 percent, and dropouts fell healthily from 7.3 percent to 4.7 percent.

“Principals are also pleased with the continued progress,” Chavis said. “While Lakeland’s rate experienced a marginal decrease, they will continue on the path to improve the possibility of more students graduating each year.

“We saw a similar decline last year at Nansemond River. Principals recognize that they must continue to implement strategies that have proven to be successful.”

State officials also reported student subgroup data. For Suffolk Public Schools, all subgroups except white students saw improvements in both areas.

While on-time graduation improved from 88.6 percent to 89.6 percent, 7.1 percent of white students dropped out in 2013, up from 5.7 percent in 2012.

“Each year is different,” Chavis said. “Schools and district staff are continuing to look at trends within each of the subgroups and address the needs of each group early.”

After a downward trend was reversed for one subgroup — students with a disability — Chavis said staff in the Department of Special Education had worked with schools to “review practices and align those practices with changes at the state level.”

Last year, the subgroup’s on-time graduation rate fell to 73.6 percent from 80.3 percent, and almost a quarter of the 110 disabled seniors in Suffolk’s public schools who would have been in the class of 2012 dropped out, up 38 percent on 2011.

From the class of 2013, one-fifth of the disabled cohort dropped out, and the graduation rate rose to 78.1 percent.