Virginia high school graduation rate increases

By Kevin Sieff
Friday, October 1, 2010

More than 85 percent of Virginia high school seniors received diplomas on time in 2010 - marking a two point increase in the state's overall graduation rate, as well as a three point improvement among black and hispanic students.

State education officials said the numbers, which were released Thursday, represented a step toward closing the longstanding achievement gap between white and minority students. That trend was particularly pronounced among school districts in Northern Virginia, which outpaced the state's improvements in several categories. The graduation rate among Hispanics in Prince William County leapt more than 8 percent.

The statewide graduation rate was 78.9 percent for black students, and 76 percent for Hispanics. The on-time graduation rate for whites was just under 89 percent.

"We've become more cognizant of what these kids need to succeed - particularly our minority populations," said Timothy Healey, the Associate Superintendent for Student Learning and Accountability in Prince William.

The newly released numbers take into account students who graduated from high school in four years but do not include the more than 1,000 students who will receive diplomas in five or six years.

"The success of Virginia schools in raising graduation rates is the result of a sustained student-by-student effort focused on the young people in our schools who are most challenged by the commonwealth's minimum diploma standards and who are the most susceptible to the pressures that cause students to drop out," Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said in a statement.

The overall on-time graduation rates in Loudoun and Fairfax were the highest in Northern Virginia, at 94 percent and 91.2 percent, respectively.

Fairfax's numbers, up from last year, were buoyed by a four percent improvement among black students and a two percent increase among Hispanic students.

"We work hard to close the achievement gap, and the graduation rate is certainly a part of that," said Paul Regnier, a spokesman for the school district. "We're very pleased with these new numbers."

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