Richmond Public Schools (RPS) has both the lowest graduation rate and the highest dropout rate among school districts in the state of Virginia, Superintendent Jason Kamras said.
In the daily RPS direct newsletter for Wednesday, Kamras gave an update on the graduation and dropout rates from the 2019-20 academic year for the school districts high schools. Included within Kamras’ online newsletter was data from a presentation given to the school board on Monday by RPS chief academic officer Tracy Epp.
“Our graduation rate remains the lowest in the Commonwealth, and our dropout rate remains the highest.” wrote Kamras, who has served as superintendent since 2018.
According to the data presented by Epp, the on-time graduation rate for the school division went up from 70.7 percent in 2018-19 to 71.6 percent in 2019-20, while the dropout rate decreased by 1.1 percentage points to 23.2 percent in the most recent academic year.
Despite the overall positive changes, the data also showed several negative trends for RPS, to which Kamras wrote were among his “gravest” concerns.
Huguenot High School registered a slight decrease (1.1 percent) in its on-time graduation rate, but George Wythe High School saw the biggest change with its on-time graduation rate plummeting by 10 percent between the 18-19 and 19-20 school years, bringing the overall rate to 50 percent.
George Wythe also experienced a large increase in its dropout rate at 12.2 percent for the 2019-20 academic year.
Specifically for RPS subgroups, on-time graduation rates for students identified as Hispanic/Latino (-7.0 percent), multi-racial (-7.7 percent) and English learners (-12.1 percent) all decreased. Additionally, the dropout rates for Hispanic/Latino (+7.3 percent) students and English learners (+13.3 percent) increased.
The data presentation did not include any details on how the spring school closures because of the coronavirus pandemic may have impacted the 2019-20 numbers.
In an effort to combat the aforementioned negative trends, RPS has launched three new programs over the past six months. Two of the programs are specifically designed for English learners, while the other is for people who dropped out of RPS schools in the past.
¡Con Ganas! is for English learners who are 17 and older, offering intensive language courses and academic support. The Newcomer Academy helps immigrant English learners who have been in the United States for up to one year.
A combined 237 students are currently enrolled in the two programs, according to Kamras.
The dropout program, named the Secondary Success Center, is available to any resident of Richmond City between the ages of 17 and 21.
Not all the data from the presentation was bad, however.
Thomas Jefferson, Armstrong and John Marshall high schools as well as Richmond Alternative School all experienced increases to graduation rates and decreases in dropout rates.
Also, graduation rates increased for students that are Black, economically disadvantaged and have disabilities.
“We still have a long, long way to go, but I truly believe that we are now on the right track,” Kamras wrote.
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