More students are graduating with advanced diplomas in the Richmond City Public School system despite an increase in the dropout rate, according to recent data released by the Virginia Department of Education.
Compared to the 2009 graduating class, the 2010 graduating class included 22 more students graduating with an advanced diploma, even though there were 16 less students graduating overall.
Our goal has been to get kids educated, not show better data,” said Thomas Beatty, executive director for secondary education for Richmond Public Schools.
This increase in the number of Advanced Studies Diplomas mirrors the statewide trend, where in total 128 more Advanced Studies Diplomas were awarded.
Advanced Studies Diplomas are an important for a student’s future, according to Julie Grimes, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education.
“The more students that have an advanced diploma, they better qualified they are for their future,” said Grimes.
Compared to Hanover, Henrico, and Chesterfield county school systems, Richmond City Public Schools had the smallest increase in the number of Advanced Studies Diplomas. Chesterfield saw the biggest increase in 128, while Hanover county saw a drop in the number of Advanced Studies Diplomas.
“No two high schools or school divisions are identical in the challenges they face but a diploma must be our goal for all students, regardless of where they live or their economic circumstances,” said Board of Education President Eleanor B. Saslaw in a press release released by the Virginia Department of Education.
Despite graduating more students with Advanced Studies Diplomas, Richmond City Public Schools saw an increase in their dropout rate.
The dropout rate increase from 12.7 percent to 13.5 percent, meaning 13.5 percent of the students in the overall group left permanently.
Richmond Public Schools, however, is still proactively engaging and trying to lower its dropout rate.
In the past few years, Richmond Public Schools has initiated a number of programs to keep teenagers in school. One, a transition program for new freshman students, insures early that students don’t dropout.
Another, called the Drop-Out Prevention Initiative, finds teenagers that have dropped out and counsel them, trying to place them back in a learning environment that is most appropriate for them.
Two of the programs allow students to spend time after school to graduate if they are overage and need to graduate within a shorter time frame.
For all Virginia high schools, however, the graduation rate is simply a statistic and a benchmark to overcome. According to Grimes, graduation rates are part of a group of criteria for Title I schools in order to receive funding from the federal government. There are, however, no Title I high schools in Virginia.
The goal for Richmond Public Schools, however, isn’t simply to send students out the door.
“You shoot for the stars,” said Beatty. “As opposed to something you can hit.”
To see the data used in this article and more, check out this spreadsheet: