Graduation and Not

VDOE posted the 2015 4-year cohort graduation data yesterday.  Their press release burbled on about the increase of the On-Time rate to over 90%. 

As we shall see, the On-Time rate is a fiction, created by VDOE to inflate the rate.  But first, some background.

  • The Standard Diploma requires twenty-two “standard credits” and six “verified credits” in specified subjects.  
  • The Advanced Studies Diploma requires twenty-four standard and nine verified credits. 

These are the only diplomas recognized by the Feds for calculation of the federal graduation indicator.  VDOE counts three further diplomas toward its inflated “On-Time” graduation rate:

  • The Modified Standard Diploma is available to students “who have a disability and are unlikely to meet the credit requirements for a Standard Diploma.”  This diploma is being phased out in favor of “credit accommodations” that will allow students who would have pursued a Modified Standard Diploma to earn a Standard Diploma.  Those of us who have watched the wholesale institutional cheating via the VGLA may be forgiven for thinking that these accommodations will be a fertile field for schools and divisions to game the system.
  • The Special Diploma, now known by the new euphemism “Applied Studies Diploma,” “is available to students with disabilities who complete the requirements of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) and who do not meet the requirements of for other diplomas.”
  • The General Achievement Diploma “is intended for individuals who are at least 18 years of age and not enrolled in public school or not otherwise meeting the compulsory school attendance requirements set forth in the Code of Virginia.”

I have commented elsewhere on Richmond’s abuse of the process for identifying and testing kids with disabilities.

This year, the 4-year cohort On-Time rate for Virginia was 90.5%.  The federal graduation indicator, known here as the “actual” graduation rate, was 86.7%. 

In some divisions, notably Richmond, the difference was larger than the statewide 3.8%:


Richmond’s actual rate is lowered because of the extraordinary numbers of Modified Standard and Special diplomas.


Note also the relative paucity of Advanced diplomas in Richmond.

As we see here, both the actual and bogus Richmond rates were considerably lower than the corresponding state rates.  This continues an established trend:


Something like half of the students who do not receive a 4-year diploma of any sort drop out.  (Others hang on and drop out later or graduate in 5 or 6 years).


It does not take much imagination to conclude that some of the Richmond cohort’s 167 dropouts might turn into people one would prefer to not meet in a dark alley.

The VDOE data also allow a (limited, as we shall see) look at the graduation and dropout rates per school. 


None of the mainstream high schools has an actual graduation rate as high as the state average, albeit TJ managed to beat the state On-Time rate.

There are no data for Maggie Walker here because it is not a Richmond Public School.  There are no data for Walker elsewhere because VDOE cooks the books, as with the SOL scores, by assigning the Walker students’ data to the public high schools in those students home districts.  Thus, the true graduation rates of the mainstream high schools, both actual and on-time, are even lower than reported.

Finally, here are the cohort dropout rates by school.