Virginia Graduation Rates: Fair to Middling

Virginia’s high school graduation rate: Pretty good but not good enough.

Until this week it was impossible to make meaningful state-to-state comparisons in high school graduation and dropout rates because each state had its own definition of what constituted a dropout. Invariably, states used definitions that would make them look better. The U.S. Department of Education has required states to use the same methodology to compare graduation rates, thus providing the most accurate comparisons available, and it published the results yesterday.

So, how does Virginia stack up?

Overall graduation rate. Virginia’s “four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate” is 82%, which expresses the number of students graduating from high school as a percentage of the number of students in the same age cohort that entered 9th grade, adjusting for students who transferred, emigrated to another country… or died. This a middle-of-the-pack performance, faring better than 27 states but worse than 20 others.

Interestingly, Virginia’s performance improves somewhat when viewed through the prism of ethnic groups.

Whites. The graduation rate for non-Hispanic whites is 86%, better than 29 other states and worse than 14.

African-Americans. The relative performance of African-Americans is even better. Virginia’s 73% graduation rate is better than the rate in 31 other states and worse than only 10.

Hispanics. Hispanics/Latinos do worse. Their 71% graduation rate is superior to that of 23 other states but worse than that of 21 states.

(The DOE did not report the Virginia graduation rate for Asians.)

Virginia is a major under-performer when it comes to dealing with children with disabilities. The state’s 47% graduation rate is higher than that of 10 other states but worse than 38 states.

Bacon’s bottom line: Overall, Virginia can say that its high school graduation rate is modestly above average compared to national norms. That’s not much to brag about. In a globally competitive, knowledge-based economy in which productivity is increasingly linked to educational attainment, China, India and other developing countries are raising their educational levels rapidly. The global competition for skilled jobs is intensifying. Thus, roughly one-fifth of Virginia’s population is destined to a standard of living based upon Third World-level wages supplemented by government-directed income transfers.

We spend plenty of money on education. That’s not the problem. Either there’s something wrong with our schools or wrong with our cultural attitudes toward education, or perhaps a combination of both. Fixing the problem starts with recognizing the problem.

(Hat tip: Larry Gross.)

– JAB

8 Responses to Virginia Graduation Rates: Fair to Middling

  1. re: ” Either there’s something wrong with our schools or wrong with our cultural attitudes toward education, or perhaps a combination of both. Fixing the problem starts with recognizing the problem.”

    what would be intensely interesting would be to compare Va school systems on the same cohort.

    the data exists – on a per school basis… not sure if it is available as an aggregate.

    but the problem is fairly widespread geographically AND it present EVEN IN “good” suburban school systems. Check your own and adjacent counties.

    Remember also that the 20-30% who do not graduate are not even eligible for our own military and that quite likely they will grow up relying on food stamps, MedicAid and other entitlements.

    this is a huge problem for a country that is 16T in debt and has a trillion dollar deficit – of which a significant portion is entitlements.

    Anyone who claims to be a fiscal conservative should recognize just how compelling this issue is.

    The jobs that the under-educated used to be able to do – are mostly gone… and virtually no company can actually use people who are not minimally proficient in Language and Math.

  2. “We spend plenty of money on education. That’s not the problem. Either there’s something wrong with our schools or wrong with our cultural attitudes toward education, or perhaps a combination of both. Fixing the problem starts with recognizing the problem.”

    Amen to that.

  3. “Remember also that the 20-30% who do not graduate are not even eligible for our own military and that quite likely they will grow up relying on food stamps, MedicAid and other entitlements. this is a huge problem for a country that is 16T in debt and has a trillion dollar deficit – of which a significant portion is entitlements.”

    And to that as well.

  4. they have a theorem in engineering – which is what problems you don’t fix in design, double, triple the costs in the next step… and it gets worse the further you go.

    In education – when a kid gets into the 4th grade and is behind his/her peers in reading and writing, math.. in many schools.. he/she is doomed without significant (and expensive) intervention.

    we keep dealing with the issue way, way downstream and we seem to resent spending money in elementary even as we slather it on for highly desirable high school programs.

    and something that is very telling The money for at-risk education for K-3 – comes from the Feds. It’s about 1K out of the 10K we spend and yet we have calls to get rid of the Dept of Ed – and if we did – we’d be back to where we were before where most local school systems choose NOT to fund at-risk elementary education.

  5. I could not agree more. Our best teachers need to be found and get paid and rewarded for working their asses off starting in first grade teaching kids and not let up until the 6th.

  6. here! here! :-) The teachers who teach K-3 are a special breed. They love kids (you have to love kids when they’re covered in mucous and want to hug you!)…. but more important they see the potential in each kid and they cannot just not do what needs to be done for that kid.

    they do this even as some of the parents are real butts about their own kids welfare…..

    think back in your own life.. and I bet you remember some of your teachers… they touched your life and you almost always become a better person because of it.

    And today… we don’t celebrate the “good” teachers… nope.. we’re on a witch hunt for the “bad” ones.. the ones in unions…the ones who are “liberal”, etc….

    Anyone who has actually taught will tell you just how hard that job is.

    there is no sitting back in your chair and talking about the football pool or eating a leisurely lunch…. nope.. from the moment you set foot in that school until the time you come home (many at 6pm or there-abouts) – your life is utterly consumed by the little buggers…

    and then you do get home and turn on the news to hear some myopic dumbass (who has never been within a country mile of a classroom) blathering on about “bad” union teachers… who are making too much money or getting too big a pension.

  7. See “HOW WASHINGTON DC SCHOOLS CHEAT THEIR STUDENTS TWICE” on page A13 of Saturday Dec. 1st Wall Street Journal.

    Written by a American U Professor who tutors disadvantaged children, it explains why one HALF of all high poverty high school students drop out.

    And it also explains why MOST of those students in the other half who graduate from such high schools “OPERATE AT A FIFTH GRADE LEVEL.

    Thus, most of these students who are accepted to, and enter, college arrive with the academic abilities of a fifth grade student. Groomed to fail, they usually do. And they fail, after they’ve rack up debt and lost time that dog them for years if not life.

    Meanwhile, our educators (those who lead the system) walk away with the money of our disadvantaged children in their pockets.

    Why do we allow this NATIONAL DISGRACE to happen?

    There are many reasons. Including that far too many leaders in the business of educating our students allow it to happen for reasons of self interest. The damage they are doing to our children borders on criminal.

  8. Pingback: “School Choice” is the Wrong Choice for Virginia’s Special Needs Students | Virginia Kids Deserve Better

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