Virginians Graduating from High School Surpasses 90%


More seemingly great news from the Virginia Department of Education… Nine out of ten students who entered the ninth grade in 2011 earned a diploma within four years, and more than half graduated with an Advanced Studies Diploma, VDOE  announced today. The equally positive flip side of the coin: The drop-out rate continues to decline. The drop-out rate for the class of 2015 was 5.2%, down from 5.4% the previous year.

Folks, either we’re making great educational strides in Virginia, or Virginia’s educrats are masters of the snow job. I don’t know which, but the trends reported by VDOE are encouraging on their face and warrant digging into to see if they reflect real gains in educational achievement or simply the watering down of standards.

Here’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples’ spin on the data: “The students who graduated in May and June began high school just as the commonwealth was introducing challenging, new assessments in mathematics, English and science. That we’ve seen another rise in the graduation rate — despite a significant increase in the expectations for high school students — indicates the hard work and professional expertise of the teachers, principals and other educators in the commonwealth’s high schools are making a real difference.”

For what it’s worth, VDOE has not inflated the graduation rate by counting GEDs.

But not everyone trusts VDOE. John Butcher over at Cranky’s Blog skewers the department for abandoning the Student Growth Performance (SGP) metric in favor of a new metric, the “Progress Table.” His analysis of VDOE:  “They are stupid, or they are lying.”

I haven’t delved into the weeds enough to affirm John’s logic on this particular issue, although I’ve found his thinking to be sound in the past. As for the graduation rate statistics, they sound like good news. But I embrace the old Ronald Reagan maxim of “trust but verify.”


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  1. Hill City Jim Avatar
    Hill City Jim

    This amazes me when all of the End of Class SOL passing rates are below 90%. I guess graduation doesn’t require subject proficiency.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I was wondering the same thing. If you use build-a-table for Henrico County high schools – (for instance) – you’ll not find a single SOL subject in a any high school that achieves 90% and there are more than a few in the 70% and lower on some subjects even in the 50% level.

    so obviously – “graduation” is some sort of a funky metric not really associated with SOL performance.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    we’re on tricky ground here… can someone graduate that has failed one or more of the EOC SOLs?

    When you look at the EOC SOL scores – for all high schools in Henrico (for example) – pass rates for one school:

    Henrico Coun Deep Run High EOC SOL English:Reading 81.71%
    Henrico Co Deep Run High EOC SOL English:Writing 50.47%
    Hen Deep Run High EOC SOL History and Social Science 65.30%
    Henrico County Deep Run High EOC SOL Mathematics 70.78%
    Henrico County Deep Run High EOC SOL Science 73.60%

    you’d have to notice the 50.47% pass rate for English Writing –

    at the State level, it looks like this:

    2014-2015 EOC SOL English:Reading 81.15%
    2014-2015 EOC SOL English:Writing 60.38%
    2014-2015 EOC SOL History and Social Science 69.06%
    2014-2015 EOC SOL Mathematics 69.08%
    2014-2015 EOC SOL Science 72.33%

    Apparently – a student can “graduate” without passing all of the 5 SOL subjects…

    where am I getting this wrong?

    1. Good point, Larry. Students are graduating without scoring proficient in their SOLs. If that’s the case, what’s the meaning of a high school degree?

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      The EOC SOL scores I got off of build-a-table are not the same that are shown in the State Level School Report Card:

      for instance, on page 4 – it shows a pass rate of 74 for English Reading
      and a pass rate of 74 for mathematics.

      That page is entitled: ” Percentage of Students Passing and Tested in English Reading and Mathematics”

      off the top of my head I can’t explain why there is such a difference but my sense is that we’re into a realm that only VDOE really understands.

      but the essential point made by HCJ stands and that is that it’s not intuitively obvious how there can be a 90% graduation rate when you don’t have a 90% pass rate for SOL subjects.

  4. Hill City Jim Avatar
    Hill City Jim

    Well, I am reminded of a TV news story about the Danville police wanting to hire more minorities to better reflect the community’s racial mix. They tried but the minority applicants were required to have a high school diploma and be able to read at the 10th grade level and most couldn’t do it.

    The worst part is the cut score, the correct score needed to be in the “passing” group is about 60% on most tests.

    I can’t figure it out either.

  5. So, the “cut rate” is 60% proficiency for graduating from high school.

    Meanwhile, student debt is sky high because a lot of students enter one kind of college or another, borrow money but don’t graduate (never earning the extra money they expected).

    The progressives blame “for profit” colleges.

    I guess the fact that our high schools are handing out diplomas like condoms at a Planned Parenthood rally doesn’t count.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Are the cut scores for graduation – also the same for SOLs pass rate?

    here’s something – not sure if it’s the latest and greatest but it indicates that EOC and SOL cut rates are similar – that’s the good news.

    to pass SOL or EOC – though – in most of the subjects one can pass with 60% correct answers.

    when I was in school 60% correct was an “F”.

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