By Ryan Quinn, Charleston Gazette-Mail
West Virginia’s public high school four-year graduation rate last school year was 90 percent, up from 89 percent the previous school year and about the same as the year before that.
Counties’ graduation rates ranged from 83 percent in Kanawha, which has the state’s highest public school enrollment, and in Cabell, which has the third-highest enrollment, to 97 percent in Doddridge, Lewis, Mingo, Morgan, Putnam and Tyler counties.
Kanawha’s graduation rate was also 83 percent in the school year before last, while Cabell’s was 82 percent.
The state Department of Education released the 2017-18 school year graduation rates Thursday. You can look up your county and high school by going to wvde.state.wv.us/zoomwv and clicking the big blue ZoomWV button and, on the next page, clicking the “graduation” tab at the top of the page.
The state’s graduation rates, which rank high nationally, haven’t been mirrored by high performance on some other statewide measures of student success.
Only 22 percent of juniors in the 2016-17 school year (these students likely were seniors last school year) were deemed at least “proficient” on the state math standardized tests. About half were judged at least proficient in English. Kanawha’s proficiency rates were higher than the state’s that year: 26 percent in math and 58 percent in English.
West Virginia students don’t have to score proficient on these tests to graduate.
About a quarter of West Virginia public and private high school students who graduated in 2017 and enrolled in the state’s public colleges in fall 2017 were required to enroll in remedial education classes.
That percentage includes students in several different types of remedial education classes, including courses that serve to teach students things they should’ve learned in high school while simultaneously letting them earn college credit. But the percentage doesn’t include students in “college level courses taught over two semesters, specifically designed for underprepared students,” according to the state report that provided this information.
Data wasn’t immediately available Thursday on what proportion of college-going students from the class of 2018 had to take remedial education courses when they enrolled in college this past fall.
The graduation rate for white students in Cabell last school year was 83 percent, the same as its countywide rate, but black students there had a 70 percent graduation rate.
Kanawha had a narrower racial gap: 84 percent for whites and 78 for blacks. So did the state as a whole: 90 percent for whites and 86 percent for blacks.
“The KCS graduation rate was 68.92% almost 10 years ago in the earliest data still available,” Kanawha County Schools Communications Director Briana Warner wrote in an email. “The district will continue to make graduation rate improvement a priority and expects to continue to see improvement in the years to come.”
“At a very early glance,” she wrote, “we are happy to see that our two largest high schools (Capital and Riverside) are up 6 percentage points from last year’s 4-year graduation rate. With this year’s specific data, we’ll take time to look at each individual school and analyze areas where we can improve.”
Cabell County Communications Director Jedd Flowers said the county’s graduation rate is a reflection of its attendance rates. The latest data shows 33 percent of Cabell Midland High students missed over 10 percent of instructional days, as did 42 percent of Huntington High students.
Flowers noted students created the “Together We Can” attendance initiative in late November, and it’s being accompanied by radio, television and social media messages. He said the students have a message of “‘We miss you and want to see you at school,’ — it’s kind of a peer-driven issue.”
He also said the county is emphasizing improving special education students’ attendance and working with courts on truancy issues.
Flowers also said there have been graduation coaches at both of the county’s high schools for a few years, and last school year, the county added three more social workers, making a total of five social workers who are all dedicated just to attendance issues.
Regarding the graduation rate gap between white and black students, Flowers said “we’ve been working for many years trying to close that gap,” and have trained staff to address it.
“We recognize our graduation rate needs to improve,” Cabell schools Superintendent Ryan Saxe said. “And we’re committed in working every day with our professional staff in doing a better job of making sure the students are able to graduate and are college and career ready.”