Black students in Albemarle County high schools are graduating at a lower rate this year than last year, Rachana Dixit and Brandon Shulleeta report in today’s Daily Progress. Of the class that entered ninth grade in 2004, 5.4% of black students dropped out. Of the class that entered in 2005, 15.2% dropped out, nearly triple the rate of the prior year. However, it’s helpful to look at the raw numbers for perspective. Only 138 black students entered the county school system in 2005, so we’re looking at an increase of about fourteen students, or about five students dropping out per high school.
Although fewer black students graduated on-time in 2009 than their counterparts in 2008, one-third of those students who did not graduate are still enrolled in school and are on track to graduate within five years. Nationally, about 71 percent of students graduate on time with a regular diploma, but barely half of black and Hispanic students earn diplomas with their peers.
“A number of our black students who did not graduate in 2008 stayed in school another year and graduated in 2009,” said Dr. Matthew Haas, Director of Secondary Education for the school division. “These students had gotten behind early in their high school careers and persisted to finish their work and graduate at nearly the same rate as their peers. As a School Division, we have now put into place more programs to help students who fall behind early in high school get caught up sooner, so that they can not only graduate, but graduate on-time.”
A school system representative tells the Progress that they’ve put retention programs into place in the past couple of years—which they say have been very successful—which are too new to have fully benefitted the most recent class of students.
That may all be true, but the headline here—”Black dropout rate in county triples”—is a bitter pill.