The Richmond Public School system’s problems just never seem to go away, or get any better. Besides worries over a lingering budget shortfall, there is still the problem of raising the graduation rate. Whether they realize it or not, and it’s a good guess they do, the absenteeism and truancy rates are tied into that all important graduation rate.
Education researcher, Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University, in a recently released study found that 10-15 percent of students nationwide were chronically absent from school. He found only six states that require school districts to track chronic absentees.
Data from those states showed that students who miss more than 7-10 days in a school year will continue to do so in subsequent years. This can amount to missing half a school year in a period of 3-4 years. One state that tracks student absentees, Maryland, showed 61 high schools had 250 or more students missing at least one month of instruction each year.
Balfanzs’ findings, released this past Thursday showed as many as one-third of students in urban schools were chronic absentees, with those schools being in the western or southern part of the country. His findings also showed that most of the high school senior classes had fewer than 60% of the students who had entered as freshmen.
Richmond Public Schools figures didn’t correspond to Balfanz’s findings. One report released by RPS showed figures for 2008-2009 as being encouraging, if not up beat. The report showed the graduation rate as being 68.67% in 2009, a rise of 3 percentage points from the previous year.
The RPS also reported the drop out rate had declined dramatically, from 16.27% in 2004, to a very low 4,25% in 2008. Along with the low drop out rate was an equally low truancy rate of 8.85% for the school year 2008-2009.
This examiner went to the Virginia Department of Education web site to see what the drop out rates and Federal 4 year graduation rates were for the school year ending 2011. Richmond has 5 regular high schools, and two specialty high schools.
Because of the make-up of the student body at the Open High School, and the Richmond Community High School, they were not included in this writers findings. But, the two schools left out of this report had 100% graduation rates and no drop outs for the previous school year.
The five regular high schools included Armstrong, George Wythe, Huguenot, John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson High Schools. The average drop out rate for the year ending 2011 for the five schools was 9.1%, a big difference from the 4,25% reported in 2008. The average federal graduation rate for the five schools came to 65.2%. A drop from 2008.
Perhaps these figures were what Mayor Dwight C. Jones was referring to, when in January he made the comment that city schools were celebrating mediocrity. School superintendent Dr. Yvonne C. Brandon answered the Mayors comment, saying the schools were not where they want them to be, but it was a work in progress. The school system has a lot of work to do.