Cause for congratulations

Published 10:46 pm Saturday, July 5, 2014

It would be easy to think the news from Suffolk Public Schools is all about underpaid school teachers, tight budgets and missed marks under Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests.

Those things surely get the majority of big headlines, and they attract appropriate attention, as they indicate various problems the city’s School Board and administration need to find ways of addressing.

But during a recent School Board retreat, members of that body heard a couple of bits of good news that deserve similar attention: On-time graduation rates are rising for seniors in Suffolk Public Schools, and dropout rates are falling. Both statistics bear out the hard work that teachers and administrators are doing to ensure that students leave high school with the best chance of moving into careers in which they can support themselves.

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Division-wide, 87.24 percent of high school seniors graduated on time in 2013. That compares with previous results ranging from 84.08 percent in 2012 to 77.83 percent in 2009. That’s a substantial improvement and means that students are more likely to actually finish school, rather than give it up when they turn 18.

Closely connected to on-time graduation is the dropout rate, which has seen similar improvement during the same period. From 14.72 percent in 2009, the dropout rate has consistently fallen each following year, landing at 8.11 percent in 2013.

The 8.11 percent of students who drop out of school, rather than continuing until they earn their diplomas, will find it hard to get and hold good jobs, and they’re far more likely to wind up in government welfare programs. Even 8 percent is still too high, but the trend is unmistakably positive, and it gives Suffolk taxpayers reason to believe things are on the right track in Suffolk Public Schools.

While folks in Suffolk should continue to expect improvement in both rates, the recent announcements are cause for congratulations.