Dropout and Not

Early one morning I posted: “You might think that our awful dropout rate would serve to improve the graduation rate.” 

That’s backwards, of course.  If the kids drop out, they can’t graduate. 

BUT, a deeper dive into the data suggests that my backward notion may be about 33% correct.

Let’s start by plotting the dropout rate for the schools with graduating classes against the federal graduation rate.  Data are from the 2017 4-year cohort report for 295 schools, with the suppressed data for 19 schools (<10 students in one category or other) omitted.


This is pretty much the expected result: The schools with high graduation rates don’t have many dropouts.  Indeed, the 65% R-squared tells us there’s a good correlation here.

That school up top with the 23% dropout rate(!) is Richmond’s Huguenot High School (see below).  The other yellow squares are, from the top, Richmond’s Armstrong, Wythe, Marshall (on the left) and JT.

Turning to the advanced studies diplomas, we see much the same pattern but with more scatter.


Notice the low rates at the five Richmond schools.

That point at 100% advanced diplomas in fact is two schools: Richmond’s (selective) Community High and Fairfax’s (very selective) Thomas Jefferson Governor’s School. 

Richmond’s (selective) Franklin Military would also be at 100% but is missing here because of the suppression rules

Richmond’s (also very selective) Maggie Walker is not on the graph because the State reports the results from there at high schools that the Maggie Walker students do not attend.

Last, when we turn to the standard diplomas, we get a result that makes my early-morning blunder look something like an insight:


The considerable scatter here is consonant with the low R-squared value but the pattern still is obvious: Schools with higher rates of standard diplomas (notably the Richmond schools) tend to have higher dropout rates.

Upon reflection, this makes some sense: Schools where more of the graduates hold standard diplomas than advanced are not doing as well overall as the schools that predominantly grant advanced diplomas. 

Indeed, Richmond is the Demon of Dropouts, with an 18% division average.  That average is driven by the 60% rate (70 of 116) at Richmond Alternative (the dumping ground for troublesome students) and counterbalanced by the 0% rates at the selective schools, Community, Franklin, and Open.

The rates at Richmond’s mainstream high schools disclose other problems:


“ED” is economically disadvantaged; “EL” is English learner; “#N/A” indicates suppression of the datum (small number of students). 

The appalling rate of Hispanic dropouts (notably at Huguenot and, to a lesser degree, at Jefferson and Wythe) also contributes to that 18% division average.  Also notice the high rates for disabled students.