21st century American success stories

It is interesting news to discover that that your suspicions are true: Portsmouth and Suffolk really are among the very worst places in Virginia, at least in terms of something as basic as high school graduation rates.

"The Portsmouth and Suffolk school systems have two of the highest dropout rates in the state - nearly one in five students who entered ninth grade for the first time in 2004 left school within four years before graduating, according to Virginia Department of Education data released Tuesday.

"When you've got a dropout rate of 18 percent, there's no silver lining," said Kevin Alston, Suffolk's assistant superintendent for administrative services. "That's 18 percent of our students that we're failing."

One other South Hampton Roads school division - Norfolk - had a dropout rate higher than the state's rate of 8.7 percent. Thirteen percent of students in that city left school early, placing Norfolk among the bottom 25 of the 131 Virginia districts reporting data.

Chesapeake (6.9 percent) and Virginia Beach (5.5 percent) were below the state rate.

The latest public high school dropout statistics provide the most accurate picture of what's happened at Virginia schools over the past four years, said Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the state education department.

Across the state, 8,347 students left high school early over the four-year period. The rates ranged from 0 percent in Falls Church and Highland County to 31.1 percent in Petersburg.

South Hampton Roads has five of the 34 high schools - not including alternative campuses - that reported dropout rates of 15 percent or higher - Portsmouth's Wilson (26.2) and I.C. Norcom (21.6); Norfolk's Lake Taylor (21.6); and Suffolk's Lakeland (23.7) and King's Fork (20.8)."

You read that right, Portsmouth's Wilson high school has a drop out rate of 26.2%. Over one quarter (I could do this math because I graduated H.S.)

Good thing those drop outs can all find good paying jobs assembling the new electric cars...in China. Maybe they could sneak into the empty containers piling up at the International Terminal and smuggle themselves into China.

Norfolk's Lake Taylor has a cool 21.6% drop out rate. That is the school next to the VWC campus, incidentally.

The 31.1% rate in Petersburg is simply insane.

This is the same high school district that lacks even accredited schools. It has been in the news recently because a local basketball player who couldn't even maintain the incredibly low 2.0 GPA needed to compete in high school sports in Chesapeake transferred to Petersburg, where they don't even pretend to have standards. He transferred to a school the newspaper describes as "the only high school in the state that has been denied accreditation for 2008-09 because of continued low student achievement."

But hey, the new environment has been great for his future: "He leads the team in rebounds (8.6) and steals (2.1) and is drawing recruiting interest from George Mason, Virginia Tech, Charlotte and High Point."

Now, to be sure, a bright spot on the Virginia Map is Falls Church, with a 0% drop out rate.

I am sure that the difference between Falls Church (0%) and Petersburg (31.1%) has nothing whatsoever to do with vast inequalities of wealth.


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