Having noticed Richmond’s atrocious dropout rate, I went digging on the VDOE Web site and found detailed dropout data. I fired up Microsoft Access, pulled the 2018 dropout data, and set them beside the Fall enrollments for that year.
The result is ugly.
The state data show a regular increase with grade. The astounding Richmond numbers show an unexpected maximum in the ninth grade. Perhaps that is due to the notorious “ninth grade bump.”
(Data are for all Virginia divisions.)
The principal argument for social promotion seems to be that holding the kid back is even less effective for learning than promoting that student. The literature I’ve seen does not explain why that reason (or simple inertia or moving the problem on to the next level or whatever else might explain social promotion) stops working at the ninth grade.
In any event, Richmond’s ninth grade bump looks to survive Richmond’s ninth grade surge in dropouts.
If you have a testable hypothesis that explains all this, please do share it with me.
Turning back to the dropout rates, we see that, until the 12th grade and contrary to the state pattern, the rate among Richmond’s economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students is lower than among their more affluent peers (“Not ED”).
This last set of data doesn’t illuminate the reasons for Richmond’s unusual (and unusually awful) dropout rates but it does suggest where we might start working on the problem: the ninth grade bump.