Graduation Rates Increasing But West Virginia Still Faces Problem Areas

Posted: June 10, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - "Diplomas Count 2013: Second Chances, Turning Dropouts into Graduates," shows both good news as well as areas for improvement for West Virginia. The report indicates that West Virginia's graduation rate in 2010 was 74.7 percent, which is similar to the national rate. However, West Virginia's rate is not accelerating as significantly as other southern states, a graduation rate gap still exists between West Virginia's African American students and white students, and the state's male students are lagging behind their counterparts across the nation.

The report noted that during the past 10 years West Virginia's graduation rate has increased by 4.5 percent. But other southern states like Tennessee have increased its rate as much as 31 percent and Florida's graduation rate increased by 23 percent.

"While our graduation rate gains are encouraging, much work remains to be done," said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares. "One dropout is one too many. Diplomas Count estimates that more than six thousand West Virginia students will fail to graduate in 2013. We must continue to engage students and find ways to personalize learning so that they want to stay in school and ultimately succeed in college and/or the workplace."

The report found that a greater percentage of African-American students in West Virginia graduate from high school when measured against their counterparts across the nation. The report found that more than 69 percent of African-American students in the state received high school diplomas in 2010, compared to a national graduation rate of about 61 percent for African-American students. However, when compared to white students in the state, African-American students fell behind by more than five percent. Meanwhile, the report also found that while white males in West Virginia graduate at a rate of 71.2 percent, the national graduation rate is 77 percent.

This eighth edition of "Diplomas Count" features a special analysis on the number of dropouts and recoverable youths, which is defined as young adults who are out of school without a completed high school education for the nation and states. In West Virginia, 8.6 percent of 16 to 21 year olds are considered recoverable youths.

Data for "Diplomas Count" is compiled by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center using the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) method. This year, "Diplomas Count" provides updated graduation-rate findings for the class of 2010. Results are reported for the United States as a whole, individual states, and the nation's 50 largest school districts.

West Virginia educators, lawmakers and others recognize the importance of improving high school graduation rates. The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and the Higher Education Policy Commission have joined forces to sponsor its fourth Student Success Summit for August.  The summit will highlight the preschool through college graduation pipeline and efforts to assist students.

In addition, the WVDE has established an Early Warning System, which creates the ability within the state's student management system to identify students at risk of dropping out of school as early as sixth grade. Principals, counselors and teachers are notified of which students are most at risk and in need of intervention.

The WVDE launched RiseUp, http://wvde.state.wv.us/riseup/, a website dedicated to providing young people with alternatives, suggestions, resources and guidance to stay on the road to successful completion of high school. The WVDE also supports the Option Pathway in which students who complete the requirements of passing the GED® and completion of an approved Career Technical Education program earn their high school diploma. And, for the first time, students who graduate from the Mountaineer ChallENge Academy will walk away with a diploma from their home county instead of a GED.

The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) adopted school counseling standards that focus on creating student supports. The legislature allocated $2.2 million for Dropout Prevention Innovation Zones.  Schools, counties and community partners applied for funds to create innovative local solutions to prevent dropouts in their communities. The board also established the Common Ground Partnership which not only provides career resources and tutoring but also military mentors.

In addition, as part of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform movement, the WVBE is working to coordinate staff in cross-counseling efforts between public education and community colleges to ensure high school graduates are prepared for a career. This pilot program will provide career awareness and career counseling services to middle school students through a collaborative, public and post-secondary education team.

Also, to meet the governor's challenge of requiring every career center in West Virginia to adopt or develop at least one career pathway that meets Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) standards for Preparation for Tomorrow, the state board and the WVDE have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the SREB to implement High Schools that Work, Technology Schools that Work, advanced career pathways and math design modules.

For the full "Diplomas Count 2013" report, visit www.edweek.org or contact the West Virginia Department of Education Communication Office at (304) 558-2699.

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