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Dropped Out

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The data on the State Education Department web site quantify the dropout problem.  These data report the dropouts as % of the cohort of the class that graduated in 2014.

Here, for the divisions with 10% or more dropouts, are the 4-year cohort dropout rates for all students:

Division DO Rate
Rockbridge County 14.9
Richmond City 13.6
Covington City 13.5
Fredericksburg City 12.9
Roanoke City 12.2
Hopewell City 11.1
Greensville County 10.9
Northumberland County 10.6
Highland County 10.5
Franklin City 10
State 5.4

As you see, we're the second worst, at a rate 2.5 times the state average:


Next are the data for students with disabilities for divisions with dropout rates >15%: 

Division DO Rate
Rockbridge County 46.9
Northumberland County 30
Prince George County 30
Hopewell City 29.7
King George County 25
Prince Edward County 25
Covington City 22.2
Danville City 22.2
Carroll County 18.8
Tazewell County 18.5
Lynchburg City 17.6
Nelson County 17.6
Louisa County 17.5
Richmond City 17.1
Wythe County 17.1
Roanoke City 16.8
Alexandria City 16.7
Hampton City 15.9
Powhatan County 15.8
Bedford County 15.7
Winchester City 15.7
Southampton County 15.4
State 9.8

Here we are fourteenth from worst.  This is up from sixth last year, with a 24.6% rate.  That might be Good News except that the number of "students with disabilities" in Richmond dropped sharply when it no longer was possible to use them to cheat on the SOL.

In contrast, twelve divisions (Chesapeake, Bland, Buena Vista, Cumberland, Halifax, Lancaster, Madison, Page, Petersburg, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, and Sussex) reported zero dropouts among their students with disabilities. 

The other side of this coin is the graduation rate.  The rate reported in VDOE's Table 5 is the number of graduates as a percentage of the 9th grade membership four years earlier.  This number does not account for the kids who move in or out of the division during the four years of high school.  To adjust for that, the VDOE now is reporting the on-time cohort graduation rate, which is on-time graduates divided by (first-time entering 9th graders 4 years earlier + transfers in - transfers out)

The cohort numbers are surprisingly larger than the "graduation rate" reported by the old system, particularly for Richmond (for 2013, 70.1% from Table 5; 76% cohort).  This becomes less of a surprise when you notice that the on-time rate allows for "adjustments (pdf) for students who are allowed more time to earn a diploma while still being counted as 'on-time' graduates."  Any time you see "adjustments," you can expect the numbers to be bogus.  For examples of this, see the discussions, here and here

Moreover, both sets of numbers are bogus in that they count all forms of diplomas: Along with the standard and advanced diplomas, they count the the modified standard diploma (secondary student with disability, unable to meet requirements for standard diploma) and the special diploma (student with disability who does not meet requirement for other diplomas).  Notice how that improves Richmond's numbers while leaving them still clearly inferior:


The graphs show Richmond's students with disabilities disproportionately receiving the Modified Standard and Special diplomas.  Given Richmond's past abuse of the VGLA (as one parent said, the kids sail thru elementary and middle schools on the score-inflating VGLA and then hit the wall in high school when they have to take the SOL), and the remarkably large number of Richmond students said to have a disability,

this hardly is a surprise.

The Feds, to their credit, are not buying the state's data manipulation: They require the actual rate of Advanced and Standard (i.e., real) diplomas. 

As we have seen, what is going on here is that the elementary and middle schools have been mislabeling kids as "disabled" so they can test them under the VGLA and boost their SOL scores.  But no Richmond high school offered the high school equivalent, the VSEP (because the State graded the VSEP, which makes cheating tough, while the local schools graded the VGLA), so kids who have coasted through taking the VGLA hit the wall in high school, where they either drop out or are jammed into one of the special diplomas.  The new math test in 2012 and the new reading test in 2013 and the abolition of the VGLA in math and reading, except for the reading test for ESL students, are putting an end to that.

Finally, here, from VDOE's shiny, new database, are the relative numbers of advanced and standard diplomas, and the sums, at the Richmond schools and statewide. 

Here we see TJ close to the state diploma rate and Franklin above it, although both are below the state rate in advanced degrees.  Open is well above the state rate for advanced degrees but below it for the sum of both degrees.  Community is doing splendidly, as usual. The mainstream high schools are lagging.

One further note: VDOE does not report graduation data for Maggie Walker.  Thus, as with the SOL and SAT scores, we can be certain that RPS is misreporting the diplomas of the Maggie Walker students at high schools those students do not attend. 

That is, Richmond cooks the numbers and still gets the lousy results you see above.

Your tax dollars at "work."

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Last updated 03/11/15
Please send questions or comments to John Butcher