October 11, 2008

School Numbers to Be Reworked in Bid to Boost Graduation Rate


By Cheryl Ross

The Virginian-Pilot


School leaders plan to give information to the state to prove that more students are graduating on time than a report by the Virginia Department of Education revealed earlier this week , Superintendent David Stuckwisch said.

Portsmouth employees will spend the next three weeks cleaning up data, he said. When they're done, Stuckwisch said, he believes the division's rate should be about 70 percent.

This week, a report by the Virginia Department of Education showed that Portsmouth's on-time graduation rate for its 2008 class was 56.7 percent - the lowest in the state.

To calculate the on-time graduation rates, schools tracked individual students for four years - the newest and most accurate way of measuring graduation numbers in Virginia. Students were considered on-time graduates if they earned one of five state- approved diplomas within four years.

The state used numbers provided by school divisions to calculate the rates.

Stuckwisch said he blames his school system's poor record- keeping for its low percentage.

Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said Portsmouth can continue to submit additional corrections along with proper documentation. The state will update graduation rates on its Web site if it is provided with the proper documentation, he said.

Stuckwisch said he knew the division had problems with its student data. They stem from about four years ago, when a new student database system was implemented that staff needed to learn, he said.

At the time, Stuckwisch said, he was more focused on getting schools accredited in a division where most schools weren't. The student information wasn't his highest priority, he said.

"We didn't take it as seriously as we should have," he said.

In June, high school guidance departments were informed that they needed to work on correcting student records during the summer for the state's report, he said.

School divisions had between June and September to send corrected data to the state. Portsmouth submitted six changes by that deadline, according to an e-mail from Pyle.

At a Thursday School Board meeting, Stuckwisch told board members that he had assumed corrections were being made all summer.

In mid-September, the state - at Stuckwisch's request - granted Portsmouth an extension to submit more corrections. The division filed 156 additional ones by Oct. 1, according to Pyle, who said that most school divisions requested changes to their graduation data.

Pilot writer Amy Jeter contributed to this report.

Cheryl Ross, (757) 446-2443, [email protected]

the paperwork

A Virginia Department of Education report earlier this week said Portsmouth had a 56.7 percent graduation rate for its class of 2008. The division's superintendent says the rate will be closer to 70 percent after some data are corrected. - database

Search for graduation rates for schools in Virginia on PilotOnline.com. graduation rates

The Virginia Department of Education's on-time graduation rate report showed:

Portsmouth at 56.7 percent

Norfolk at 71.1 percent

Suffolk at 71.9 percent

Virginia Beach at 82.6 percent

Chesapeake at 85.8 percent

The state's average was 81.3 percent.

Originally published by BY CHERYL ROSS.

(c) 2008 Virginian - Pilot. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.