standards of learning requirements working?

The Virginia Department of Education reported earlier this year an estimated four-year graduation rate of 79% for 2006 for the commonwealth on their online report card. This estimate was the product of a formula prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and, according to the Department, did not recognize the achievement of students who earn Modified Standard Diplomas, Special Diplomas, and General Achievement Diplomas.

The Department may have been vindicated in their assessment when they announced today that nearly 95% of the state’s public highschool seniors graduated this past spring. Of the students who earned diplomas in 2006, 50% earned Advanced Studies Diplomas, making 2006 the third consecutive year in which the number of advanced diplomas awarded was greater than the number of Standard Diplomas.

However, as Zinie Chen Sampson of the Associated Press notes:

"…this year’s figures still reflect the fact that more than a quarter of students who were in ninth grade four years ago failed to graduate with their class. According to the state, 73.8 percent of ninth-graders in 2002 made it to graduation in 2006, compared with last year’s four-year graduation rate of 73.5 percent. The state said the pattern isn’t unique to Virginia and predates SOL testing."

Nevertheless, the Board of Education’s Committee on Graduation and Dropout Rates is studying graduation rates with the goal of recommending a formula for calculating graduation rates for the state, school divisions, and high schools that are based on student-level data and more accurately account for students who transfer in and out of the commonwealth’s public schools, who dropout, and who are retained in grade during high school. The goal is to have an approved formula in place by 2008, when Virginia’s new Educational Information Management System will have the capability of calculating a graduation rate based on four years of student-level data.

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