The on-time graduation rate for Albemarle County Public Schools once again exceeded the statewide rate in Virginia, according to a report issued this week by the state department of education. An on-time graduation means that a student completed his or her high school studies within a four-year period. The measure first was established in 2006, and Albemarle County students have outperformed their peers across the Commonwealth every year since then.
For 2018, the school division’s rate was 92.7 percent, the ninth year it has exceeded the 90th percentile. The on-time graduation rate for the state’s 131 school divisions averaged 91.6 percent, and it is 84 percent for the U.S. according to the most recent report. The drop-out rate across the state was 5.5 percent; nationally, it is 6.1 percent. The rate in Albemarle County was five percent.
More than 63 percent of local graduates met the most rigorous academic standards for graduation, earning Advanced Studies diplomas. Statewide, the rate was 52 percent.
School division graduates matched or exceeded the graduation rates of their state peers in three demographic groups. The percentage of African American students who graduated within four years was nearly 90 percent, both locally and for public school seniors across the state. Graduation rates were higher for local students for whom English is a second language (79 vs. 73) and for students with disabilities (90 vs. 88). They were lower for Hispanic students (76 vs. 81) and for students from economically disadvantaged homes (84 vs. 88).
“While overall these results are good news for our school division,” said Dr. Matthew Haas, the school division’s superintendent, “we have a mandate that all means all when it comes to our commitment to student learning and achievement. We clearly have work to do in lifting all students to their full potential, and that is a priority,” he added.
Among programs designed to eliminate educational opportunity gaps, the superintendent said, are improvements to instructional practices that emphasize individualized learning; teaching strategies aligned to the differences in culture and life experience that many students bring to the classroom; several initiatives to deepen social and emotional learning among students; and a program to broaden home access to broadband service for students who cannot receive such service from private carriers. “Opportunity gaps often directly connect to performance gaps. We are determined and confident that these investments will address the disparities in our school division,” he added.
One new program in particular, the superintendent said, was its Freshman Seminar, a required course for all ninth graders. The class is designed to aid the transition of students to high school by creating a greater sense of community, empathy, and support for others and by encouraging students to become more instrumental in choosing courses that fit their strengths and career interests.
In a survey earlier this year, a national educational assessment organization ranked Albemarle County Public Schools as the third best performing school division in Virginia. Among the division’s highest ratings were the quality of its teachers and its preparation of students for college.