- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 23, 2012

RICHMOND | Nearly 90 percent of students in the class of 2012 graduated after four years of high school, the Virginia Department of Education said Tuesday.

The on-time graduation rate for the 97,865 public high school students who were first-time ninth-graders in 2008-09 was 88 percent, an increase of more than a percentage point from the previous year’s class, officials said. On-time graduation has increased more than 7 percent since state education first reported rates in 2008 based on improved tracking of individual students.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright said in a statement that statewide improvements are the result of efforts to provide “struggling and sometimes troubled students with the instruction, support and encouragement they needed to persevere and complete their diploma requirements.”

Among school divisions, Highland County had a 100 percent on-time graduation rate; The city of Richmond had the lowest at 73.6 percent.

The report also showed continuing disparities in on-time graduation rates among student subgroups: Asian students had a 94.8 percent graduation rate; whites, 90.8 percent; black students, 82.7 percent; and Hispanics, 80.9 percent. Students with disabilities had an 84.9 percent graduation rate; economically disadvantaged students, 81.7 percent.

The figures show graduation rates for black and Hispanic students improved from last year by 2.4 percentage point and 1.8 percentage points, respectively. Students with disabilities saw graduation rates fall by 1 percentage point in 2012, while the rate for disadvantaged students rose by 1.8 percentage points.
The department also said that 1,125 members of the class of 2011 returned for a fifth year and graduated in 2012.

For the students who began high school in 2008, the dropout rate was 6.5 percent, down from 7.2 percent in the previous year’s class. Those with limited English proficiency had a 17 percent dropout rate; Hispanic students, 13.6 percent; black students, 4.4 percent; white students, 2.8 percent; Asian students, 1.3 percent.
Northampton County had the highest dropout rate at nearly 19 percent; Highland County had the lowest at zero.

Education officials said the statewide dropout rate has fallen by more than 25 percent in the last five years.
High schools have had to meet annual graduation and completion benchmarks to earn full state accreditation since the 2010-11 academic year. The Department of Education said last month that 93 percent of public high schools are fully accredited, down from 96 percent.

The department tracks individual students year to year to get a precise on-time graduation rate by assigning each high-school freshman a “testing identifier” number. The reporting method accounts for student mobility, advancement and retention. If a student moves during high school, he would continue to be tracked and would count toward the graduation rate of the school where he earns his diploma.

The report said that more than 35 percent of the class of 2012 earned a standard diploma; 48.6 percent earned an advanced-studies diploma, which requires students to earn additional credits; and about 2 percent each earned a modified standard diploma or a special diploma. The latter two types are available only to students with disabilities.

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