New Kent schools improve on graduation, dropout rates
New Kent school officials are beaming about statistics showing over the past two years a significant upswing in county students’ on-time high school graduation rate and a marked decline in dropouts.
Virginia’s Department of Education released the data last week. New Kent School Board members perused the findings, labeled “very good news” by school superintendent Rick Richardson, during their meeting Monday afternoon.
On-time graduation and dropout statistics track high school students beginning with their freshman year. New Kent’s Class of 2010 boasted an 88.4 percent on-time graduation rate. The figure is above the state average of 85.5 and a vast improvement over New Kent’s 80 percent figure just two years ago in 2008.
High school students who dropped out during their four-year career comprised 4.6 percent of the Class of 2010, well below the state’s 8.2 percent average. New Kent’s dropout rate in 2008 stood at 11.1 percent.
The missing 7 percent of the class includes students who are back for another year of high school and those who opted to earn a GED, said Nate Collins, New Kent’s director of secondary instruction.
New Kent’s averages also beat the state in all but one of five student subgroups — males, blacks, whites, disabled, and economically disadvantaged — tracked by the state. New Kent economically disadvantaged students graduated at a 74.1 percent rate compared to the state’s 77.6 and posted a 14.8 percent dropout rate (12.2 state).
The statistics for economically disadvantaged students “still leaves us room for concern,” Collins told board members Monday. But on-time graduation for those students has shot up from 40 percent in 2008 while the dropout rate has plummeted from what was then 32 percent.
Collins, meanwhile, commended the county’s special education staff in helping to attain a 92.5 percent graduation rate for disabled students (up from 72.2 in 2008) and a 7.5 percent dropout rate (down from 2008’s 25 percent).
“Even though we’re getting better… our goal is 100 percent graduation and zero percent dropouts,” he told the board.
The high school is expanding efforts aimed at improvement, he said, noting committees have formed to identify possible dropouts and train mentors to assist at-risk kids.
“We’ve also formed a committee to extend our dropout prevention efforts to the middle school and elementary school levels,” he added.
In other matters, board members learned that the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, phased in to schools beginning in 2006, is starting to pay dividends as bullying incidents are on the decline. Studies, however, show it takes 5-7 years at the elementary level and 7-10 years at the secondary level for significant change to occur.
Results of a recent student survey presented to the board on Monday reveal most New Kent students reported feeling sorry for those who are bullied and said they attempt to help those who are bullying targets. Most also reported they are not afraid of being bullied.
Staff at all four county schools have set goals of further reducing the number of bullying incidents and improving the overall social climate at each school.
“We’re really trying to develop stronger community awareness about our program,” Watkins Elementary assistant principal Pat Kerns told the board. “Our steering committee will be working on that this year.”