Alexandria Schools On-Time Graduation Rate Increases

Improvements in Graduation and Dropout Rates Top Recent Records

Alexandria, Va. — Data released this week by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) show that Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) significantly increased its on-time graduation rates from 2011 to 2012, with improvements in achievement by African American and Hispanic students. In addition, state data show a dramatic decline in dropouts by ACPS students.

The division's 2012 four-year on-time graduation rate was 81.9 percent, compared with 79.2 percent in 2011. This means that more than eight out of every 10 students who started at T.C. Williams High School in the fall of 2008 earned a diploma in 2012. Among African American students, the rate improved from 79.5 percent to 81.7 percent. Among Hispanic students, the rate increased from 67.3 percent to 69.9 percent. Over the past five years, six of seven different subgroups showed increases ranging from 5 to 22 percentage points. Only students who receive special education services experienced a decrease in graduation rate from 76.9 in 2011 to 72 percent in 2012. That decline is being closely examined.

Students considered "economically disadvantaged," as measured by those who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, had an increase in graduation rates, from 77.4 percent in 2011 to 80.7 percent in 2012. The most dramatic improvement came among students with limited English proficiency, or English Language Learners (ELL). In 2011, ELL students graduated at a rate of 72.3 percent and in 2012, 79.7 percent, which bested the state's overall ELL graduation rate of 74.1 percent. White (92.5%) and Asian (98.3%) students also topped their counterpoints in state graduation rates, at 90.8 percent and 94.8 percent respectively.

"We are delighted with the progress of our students and tremendously proud of the work our teachers, support staff and administrators have done to produce these results," said Superintendent Morton Sherman. "This accomplishment shows the rigorous programs we have instituted within the division are working. We're certainly moving in the right direction, and we're confident that our improvements will continue to benefit our students."

Virginia's on-time graduation rate is one way the state measures student achievement. In addition to following students over time, the statistic accounts for student mobility, enrollment changes and promotion policies. The state also released five-year completion data for students who return for an additional leg of their senior year. This can happen for many reasons, including students needing more time to be competitive for college entry, completing the requirements of special programs and allowing for time spent in service or as an exchange student abroad. When taking into account five-year students, the cohort completion rate for the ACPS Class of 2011 was 82.7 percent. The proportion of on-time graduates from 2011 was 79.4 percent.

Dropout rates diminished for ACPS as well. The dropout rate is not equal to 100 minus the graduation rate because, as noted, many students go on to complete an additional year or attain their GED. For 2012, the overall dropout rate for all students in ACPS was 11.9 percent. In 2011, it was 15.1 percent. Nearly every subgroup of students saw decreases in dropouts: African American students by 2.2 percent, Hispanics 4.5, Whites 3.7, Asians 4.8, economically disadvantaged 2.7 and ELL by 5.6 percent.

"Preparing our students for the world awaiting them is our highest and most honorable responsibility," said Alexandria City School Board Chairman Sheryl Gorsuch. "This is outstanding news for ACPS and the City of Alexandria."

The VDOE credits the overall improvements around the state to school districts' ability to identify students in danger of falling behind or dropping out and to local efforts to get students the help they need. Graduation is a central tenet of the ACPS 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, which states that the division will ensure all secondary students have a comprehensive plan for success and are equipped with the tools necessary to achieve their goals upon high school graduation and that the division will "create or expand alternative education strategies and programs that will minimize out of school suspensions and improve the graduation rate."

News of improving graduation rates and decreasing dropouts comes on the heels of a slate of noteworthy achievements for the school division. More students took the SAT in 2012 than during the previous decade. About 65 percent of the Class of 2012 took the test. Students' scores on the exam also increased in each of test domains: reading, math and writing. The number of Advanced Placement test takers also recently soared-37 percent of T.C. Williams main campus students took an exam, a 14 percentage point hike over 2005.

View the graph of ACPS Four-Year Cohort On-Time Graduation Rates 2008-2012 (PDF)