The High School Graduation Rate Improved This Year? Really?

Despite the closure of schools due to COVID-19 in March, 92.3% of Virginia students entering the ninth grade during the 2016-18 school year earned a diploma and graduated within four years in 2020, Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced yesterday.

That actually represents an improvement from 91.5% for the 2019 cohort.

“My first priority after schools closed was to make sure that every student in the class of 2020 who was on track to earn a diploma was able to graduate on time,” Lane said. “In addition to congratulating our 2020 graduates, I want to thank all of the educators and administrators who made full use of the flexibility provided under the emergency waivers I issued in the spring to ensure that students were not held back because being unable to take a Standards of Learning test or complete a required course.”

Question: Given the fact that the last two months of school this spring were disrupted, did 92.3% of students deserve to graduate, or are Virginia schools unleashing thousands of graduates upon the world who, in the pre-COVID world, would have failed to meet graduation standards?

— JAB

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10 responses to “The High School Graduation Rate Improved This Year? Really?

  1. good Lord bacon. A bunch of kids graduate and you ask if they deserved to. Really doubt it is a radical left conspiracy or are you that far gone?

    • Who said this was a “radical left conspiracy?” Not me. That’s you putting words in my mouth.

      In the school shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 crisis, students shifted to online learning. We know that not every student has access to broadband and laptops. We also know that working parents were not always in a position to make sure their kids were doing their schoolwork. We also know that some students effectively dropped out. If they lost two months of learning, it is perfectly reasonable to ask if they truly mastered the skills that their high school diploma says they did.

  2. Obviously. Well, for one thing in the last months, the number of students who would not have graduated because of unexcused absences dropped to zero. That’s probably a couple of thousand right there.

    Senior Skip Day was a bust.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    The diplomas need a seal that depicts the covid mask. Sort of like what they did with Roger Maris.

    • I’ll bite. What do masks have to do with Roger Maris? I am a bit of a baseball fan so I know about the HR record in 1961 with the “games in a season” controversy vis-a-vis Babe Ruth. But what mask?

  4. I don’t think it would be “thousands” even if the entire 0.8% improvement was a result of allowing unqualified students to graduate. Given the average number of graduates in Virginia each year, it would most likely be somewhere between 700 and 900 additional students.

    Unless, of course, Virginia’s schools are already graduating thousands of unqualified students – but that’d be a different issue altogether.

  5. I can’t even imagine the level of cheating that was going on last spring. A really well designed online course will “feed” students questions by randomly selecting say 20 questions per student from a pool of 500 questions. No two students will be answering the same questions. My guess is that the teachers sent the same electronic test to each student. Those students had various chat applications running where the correct answers were entered and shared. Even if the school was sophisticated enough to monitor the students’ computers the school wouldn’t be able to monitor their cell phones.

    I’d also strongly suspect that the teachers (quite reasonably) believed that in the unusual circumstances of last Spring it was fair and reasonable to cut the students some slack on grades. And, as I recall, SOLs weren’t used (I could be wrong about that).

    We’ll see how this year’s virtually educated students do on their SATs.

  6. The rate changes very little from year to year, but does appear to make a big leap this year. Maybe we should re-look at what happened this year to make this big of a jump. Was it more attention given to those students who needed more help in March to make it over the line? Was it more attention paid to those students who were lacking credits? Was it more credit recovery programs provided sooner than later? Interesting find. I am not sure we can blame it only on just letting students who shouldn’t have graduated- graduate? It could be that high school accountability underlining the graduation rate as an indicator of success has had a more positive impact in 2020.

    Regardless, it would be worth finding out what worked better last year than in past years.

    From a New Release on Oct. 8, 2019 –
    2015 90.6%
    2016 91.4%
    2017 91.2%
    2018 91.6%
    2019 91.5%

  7. Pingback: More Graduates, Less Learning – CrankysBlog

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