W.Va. high school graduation rates continue to improve

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W.Va. high school graduation rates continue to improve
By Carrie Hodousek, MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia leads the nation on improving high school graduation rates, according to preliminary data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The data shows West Virginia saw the fourth-greatest increase in graduation rates from 81.4 percent in 2012-2013 to 84.5 percent in 2013-2014.

There was also a dramatic increase in rates of students with disabilities, which rose from 62.1 percent to 70.3 percent. Economically disadvantaged students also saw an increased from 73.7 percent to 80.1 percent.

“We’re certainly celebrating this information among our superintendents and our teachers,” said Kristin Anderson, spokesperson for the state Department of Education. “(We) just continue to carry the message that graduating from high school is critical as the superintendent says ‘one drop out is too many.'”

Anderson praised state School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano saying the data comes on the heels of the release of his strategic five-year plan to improve graduation rates annually with a goal of 90 percent by 2020.

“We have a superintendent who is extremely committed to this cause. It’s definitely one of his top priorities, and echoing that, making sure that’s a top priority for everybody from the top-down,” she said.

Not only is the state DOE recognizing Martirano and West Virginia educators, but Anderson said this achievement has stemmed from outside the classroom with parents encouraging their kids to go to school.

“We see that when students are chronically absent and they miss school, they’re more likely to drop out,” she said. “That’s another message that we expect from our parents is relaying the importance of being in school everyday.”

A high school diploma can lead a student into the work force or to receive a college degree or certificate, but Anderson said “the jobs of today and the jobs of the future require more than a high school graduate.”

“We want to encourage our students not only to graduate from high school, but to continue their education,” she said.

In addition to West Virginia, the data said the states that saw the biggest gains include Delaware, Alabama, Oregon and Illinois.

The National Center for Education Statistics is expected to release final graduation rate data by next spring.