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Albemarle, Charlottesville schools see improved graduation, drop-out rates

Students in Charlottesville-Albemarle’s public schools are earning diplomas in greater numbers than in previous years.

Albemarle County’s on-time graduation rate has increased for the third year in a row, moving from 93.4 percent in 2013, to 94.8 percent for 2014. The drop-out rate has also improved, decreasing from 3.5 to 2.3 percent during the same years.

“This is the second week in a row that a report from the Virginia Department of Education revealed that Albemarle County Public Schools outperformed their peers across Virginia,” Albemarle spokesman Phil Giaramita said in a press release.

Statewide, Virginia’s on-time graduation rate was 89.9 percent, with a dropout rate of 5.4 percent. On-time graduation is defined as graduation within four years of entering high school. Virginia’s on-time graduation rate has increased steadily since 2008, when 81.3 percent of high school students statewide graduated on-time.

Albemarle County, having surpassed statewide averages, now stands in the top 10 percent of high schools out of Virginia’s 131 school divisions.

Executive director of K-12 education Debbie Collins said the County’s success is attributed to “highly engaged high school staffs that begin supporting students from the moment they enter high school as freshmen.”

While on-time graduation rates for Charlottesville City Schools have also increased for the second year—from 80.6 percent in 2013 to 88.8 percent in 2014—the division did not meet the statewide graduation rate average.

The drop-out rate for the corresponding years has decreased from 10.2 percent to 5.6 percent, which places the division just below the state drop-out average.

“We’re very pleased with the strong progress we’ve made in the recent years,” said Charlottesville spokeswoman Beth Cheuk. “However, we’re always looking to improve, and the expectation that we communicate to all students is that every student will graduate.”

Cheuk added that Charlottesville City Schools have special programs, such as the WALK Program to help students catch up on missing credits, and Saturday Academic Intervention, which provides students with extra assistance on the weekends.

“The downside to small cohorts is that a single-number portrait of accomplishment (such as graduation rates or SOL data) is subject to variability,” Cheuk said. “The upside to small cohorts is that our schools foster deep community.”

“Our teachers and administrators work closely with students and families to make sure that our students are on target to attain the credits that they need,” Cheuk added.