Dave Chappelle takes a selfie with the Duke Ellington School for The Arts seniors at their graduation at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on Sunday, June 14. The D.C. public school system saw its graduation rate increase again. (Erin Schaff/For The Washington Post)

High school graduation rates in D.C. Public Schools and in Virginia continued to grow last year, mirroring a trend of rising graduation rates nationwide.

In the District, the percentage of high school students who graduated from D.C. Public Schools in four years increased by six percentage points, from 58 to 64, continuing four years of growth in graduation rates.

Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson called the uptick “another indicator that we are the fastest improving school district in the nation.”

“We are focused on preparing our students for future success in college and in their careers. Our graduation rates show that we are making real progress with students across the district,” Henderson said in a news release.

More than 90 percent of students in Virginia who entered high school four years ago graduated on time in 2015, raising the on-time graduation rate for the fifth year in a row to 90.5 percent, according to data released by the state Tuesday.

Steven R. Staples, Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction, lauded the progress, noting that graduation rates rose even as state standardized tests, which students have to pass to graduate, have gotten more challenging.

“That we’ve seen another rise in the graduation rate — despite a significant increase in the expectations for high school students — indicates the hard work and professional expertise of the teachers, principals and other educators in the commonwealth’s high schools are making a real difference,” Staples said in a news release.

[National high school graduation rates at historic high, but disparities still exist]

Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, attributed the upward trend to more intensive interventions for students at risk of dropping out. Some school divisions identify at risk students as early as middle school, he said, and being to track them to ensure they make it to the finish line.

“School divisions have redoubled their efforts in keeping students in school,” Pyle said. Additionally, the state began scrutinizing graduation rates in 2011 when determining whether to give a school accreditation.


Virginia’s high school graduation rate has risen dramatically since 2008, when state education officials changed the way they measured the rates. (Virginia Department of Education)

While Virginia’s dropout rate fell slightly in 2015 — from 5.4 to 5.2 percent for all students — the dropout rate for Hispanics stayed roughly the same, with more than one in 10 Hispanic students leaving high school early.

The dropout rate does not account for students who finished four years of high school but fell short of the requirements to earn a diploma, as some of those students might return for a fifth or sixth year to complete the requirements.

[Operation Graduation: Read about how one high school gets struggling students to the finish line]

The state’s on-time graduation rate has risen by 9.2 points since 2008, when the state changed the way it measured graduation rates. Graduation rates in many Northern Virginia school districts also risen since then:

  • In Prince William County, graduation rates rose to 91.4 percent in 2015. In the past seven years, graduation rates in the county have risen more than 8 percent.
  • In Arlington, the on-time graduation rate topped the state’s average, rising to 92.8 percent. And nearly 70 percent of Arlington graduates earned Advanced Diplomas, which carry more requirements than a Standard Diploma. About 52 percent of graduates statewide earned Advanced Diplomas.
  • Alexandria had a graduation rate of 79.6 percent. The district has just one high school, T.C. Williams, and it has a large concentration of English language learners.
  • Loudoun County had the region’s highest graduation rate, with 95.6 percent of students graduating on time. The county also had the region’s highest graduation rate for Hispanic students, with 86.4 percent of Hispanic students graduating on time.
  • Fairfax County, the state’s largest district, slightly outpaced the state with a graduation rate of 92.7 percent.